By Tales Azzoni
The Associated Press
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil — Brazilian protesters and police clashed Wednesday near a stadium hosting a Confederations Cup soccer match, as thousands of demonstrators trying to march on the site were met by tear gas and rubber bullets.
Brazil’s senate voted to increase penalties for those found guilty of corruption, responding to a key demand made by protesters across the country.
Anti-government protesters in part angered by the billions spent in World Cup preparations picked up tear gas canisters and lobbed them back at police, along with a shower of rocks. A dense fog of the acrid gas enveloped the mass of protesters, who were about a mile away from the stadium where Brazil was playing Uruguay in a semifinal match of the warm-up tournament for next year’s World Cup.
Police set up a one-mile perimeter around the stadium, normal procedure for international tournaments. Mounted police and riot units maintained another security line about a half-mile from the stadium.
“The protesters started this when they tried to break through our outer barrier,” police Capt. Flavio Almeida said. “We had no choice but to respond.”
Two protesters were hurt, including a 21-year-old man who fell from an overpass and was in critical condition.
By the time the match ended in a 2-1 Brazil victory, most of the protesters had dispersed. In another area of Belo Horizonte, a group of masked young men shattered the windows of car showroom and set the shop on fire.
About 50,000 protesters had earlier massed in a central plaza in Belo Horizonte.
“We don’t need the World Cup,” said Leonardo Fabri, a 19-year-old protester. “We need education, we need better health services, a more humane police.”
It’s the latest protest to turn violent as Latin America’s biggest country has been hit by nationwide protests since June 17.
Elsewhere in Brazil the situation was mostly calm, in part because Brazilian lawmakers were taking action to meet protesters’ demands.
The senate on Wednesday approved legislation to ratchet up penalties for those found guilty of corruption and would take away the ability for a pardon, amnesty or bail for those convicted. The measure must be approved by the lower house before it’s signed into law.
The lower house late Tuesday voted 403-9 to drop a measure that would have limited the investigative powers of federal prosecutors, a bill that many feared would make it harder to prosecute official corruption.