Brazil: clashes in Belo Horizonte as protests continue

Alastair Leithead reports on the latest clashes and protests in Brazil

New clashes have taken place in Brazil despite President Dilma Rousseff's attempt to respond to protesters' demands and halt the violence.

Trouble was reported in Belo Horizonte and Salvador, the two cities hosting Confederations Cup matches on Saturday.

Largely peaceful protests continued in dozens of Brazilian cities on Saturday, including Sao Paulo.

President Rousseff announced several reforms on Friday as she tried to bring an end to days of demonstrations.

The demonstrations began over transport fare rises in Sao Paulo, but quickly grew into nationwide rallies encompassing a raft of issues, from corruption and the poor quality of public services to the cost of hosting the current Confederations Cup and next year's Fifa World Cup.

Rubber bullets

A crowd gathered in the centre of Belo Horizonte on Saturday and marched towards the Mineirao stadium, where Mexico were playing Japan in the Confederations Cup, the eight-team football tournament seen as a curtain-raiser for next year's main event.

Start Quote

It was a 20 cent rise in public transport fares that stirred passions. But concerns over healthcare, security, rising inflation and World Cup and Olympic overspending soon became the focus”

End Quote Ben Smith BBC Sport, Brazil

Police put the number of protesters at more than 60,000 people.

The clashes began when a group tried to break through a perimeter set by the police and the National Guard around the stadium. Riot police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The trouble escalated after dark when car dealers had windows broken, some shops were looted and protesters set fire to a car and several other objects on the streets.

Authorities sent in mounted police officers and fired more tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Thousands of fans had to wait to leave the stadium because of the clashes, local reports said.

Clashes were also reported in Salvador, the north-eastern city hosting Brazil's Confederations Cup match against Italy.

In Sao Paulo, tens of thousands of people joined a march blocking one of the city's most important roads, Avenida Paulista, in a protest against a proposed change to the law.

The change could limit the powers of the Federal Attorney's office to investigate corruption and abuse of power cases, critics say.

It was federal prosecutors who were behind Brazil's biggest-ever corruption case into an illegal scheme that used public funds to pay coalition parties for political support.

Several smaller demonstrations also took place elsewhere.

One of the biggest was in the southern city of Santa Maria where some 30,000 people took to the streets. Amongst the issues angering demonstrators there was the slow pace of a trial of those accused over a nightclub fire that killed 242 people in January.

Oil money

Another mass demonstration is expected in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. The BBC's correspondent there, Alastair Leithead, says people appear determined that the protests will go on despite the president's televised address.

Dilma Rousseff spoke on national television

President Dilma Rousseff said on Friday she wanted to talk to those organising the rallies in the hope of tackling their grievances.

She said she would draft a new plan to benefit public transport and that all oil royalties would be used in education.

She also said that thousands of doctors would be drafted in from overseas to improve the national health service.

She had earlier held an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the protests.

On Thursday night more than a million people took to the streets and there was violence in various cities in which dozens were injured and two people died.

One of the biggest source of grievance is the Confederations Cup currently taking place in a number of Brazilian cities and the 2014 World Cup that follows it.

Demonstrators have expressed their anger at steep ticket prices and the money spent on both tournaments, as well as the 2016 Olympic Games, which Rio de Janeiro is hosting.

Football's world governing body, Fifa, has strongly rejected Brazilian media speculation that the remainder of the Confederations Cup could be cancelled.

map showing protest sites

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