Latin America & Caribbean

Violent protests mar Brazil-Mexico match in Fortaleza

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Media captionThe BBC's Julia Carneiro: "Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds"

Brazilian police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse some protesters in the city of Fortaleza, as unrest continues across the country.

At least 30,000 people rallied in the north-eastern city ahead of the Confederations Cup game with Mexico.

The unrest was sparked by transport price hikes in Sao Paulo but it has now grown into broader discontent over poor public services and corruption.

Authorities in Rio and Sao Paulo said recent price rises would be reversed.

The mayors of Cuiaba, Recife, Joao Pessoa and other cities have already announced a reduction in bus fares in response to the protests.

More than 250,000 people have taken to the streets in over a dozen cities across Brazil over the past few days.

The change of heart in Rio and Sao Paulo was announced by officials in the two cities on Wednesday.

The announcement will be seen as a major victory for the protest movement, correspondents say.

Governor of Sao Paulo state Geraldo Alckmin and the city's mayor, Fernando Haddad, said they had taken the step to allow for dialogue with peaceful protesters. Major demonstrations are planned for tomorrow in both Rio and Sao Paulo.

'Doing the right thing'

The protesters in Fortaleza began their march on the main road leading to the stadium.

Clashes erupted when the march was stopped by police. Some demonstrators began throwing stones, while police fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

Several people were injured, including police officers.

Access to the stadium was blocked for at least 30 minutes, but police later allowed people to get in ahead of the game which started at 19:00 GMT.

A number of protesters do have tickets and are believed to be at the game, however no trouble has been reported during the match.

The BBC's Ben Smith in Fortaleza says that during the protest some demonstrators carried banners reading: "A teacher is worth more than Neymar" - in a reference to Brazil's star footballer who played - and scored a goal - against Mexico.

Meanwhile, other national team players expressed their support for the demonstrators.

"After seeing the people on the streets claiming for improvements, it makes me feel like joining them,'' striker Hulk was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

"They are doing the right thing, what they are saying makes sense and we have to hear them. Brazil needs to improve, we all know that," he added.

In a separate development, the president of the football's world governing body FIFA, Sepp Blatter, urged protesters not to "use football to make their demands heard".

But speaking to Brazil's Globo TV, he added: "I can understand that people are not happy."

Dilemma

On Tuesday, riot police and protesters clashed in Sao Paulo - the largest city.

Shops and banks were vandalised by groups of masked activists, who fought other demonstrators trying to stop the violence.

The current unrest is the biggest since 1992, when people took to the streets to demand the impeachment of then-President Fernando Collor de Mello.

Vice-President Michel Temer cut short a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Wednesday to return to Brazil.

However, President Dilma Rousseff said she was proud that so many people were fighting for a better country.

Brazil's government earlier warned that it would deploy the National Public Security Force (FNSP) in the five cities hosting the Confederations Cup: Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Fortaleza and the capital, Brasilia.

The authorities said that Recife was the only host city not to request the support of the force. The tournament is seen as a curtain-raiser event for next year's football World Cup.

Many of the demonstrators have complained of the huge sums spent on construction for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, which will be hosted by Rio de Janeiro.

The dilemma for the country's political leadership is how to answer so many different concerns among a vast group of people with momentum and social media on their side, correspondents say.

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