Protesters, police clash in Sao Paulo ahead of World Cup

A man holds a Brazilian flag in front of two police officer outside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro workers' protest. (Reuters)

A man holds a Brazilian flag in front of two police officer outside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro workers' protest. (Reuters)

Police in São Paulo fired tear gas on Monday to disperse protesters supporting a subway workers’ strike that has unleashed transport chaos three days before the Brazilian mega-city hosts the World Cup kick-off.

A group of about 150 protesters set fire to piles of garbage to block a central street in the Brazilian business hub, prompting police to fire stun grenades and then tear gas to disperse them. 

The demonstrators were backing a five-day-old strike by subway workers that has posed a major headache for the sprawling city of 20-million people ahead of Thursday’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia. 

Police also used a stun grenade to break up a separate demonstration by about 70 striking workers who had gone into a central metro station to try to convince supervisors to join the strike, said union president Altino Melo dos Prazeres. 

Prazeres said he was confident the strikers had the upper hand in their negotiations with the government for a pay increase. “I don’t believe the government wants to thwart this Cup,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Union workers have reduced an initial demand for a 16.5% wage hike to 12.2%, but employers are offering only 8.7%. Rising inflation and a sluggish economy have tarnished the World Cup glow in Brazil, fueling the anger of strikers and protesters who say the $11-billion budget would have been better spent on education, health and transport. – AFP

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