People run away from tear gas during a protest outside the Minerao stadium. (AP Photo)
Belo Horizonte: About 100,000 people are expected to join a protest on Wednesday to demand better public services and to complain about the cost of the World Cup before Brazil plays Uruguay in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup. Local officials have declared a holiday in Belo Horizonte and authorities said they are expecting confrontations with the demonstrators.
Belo Horizonte has seen some of the most violent clashes between police and protesters since the country was swept by a wave of demonstrations calling for better education, transport and health services. There were no major protests in the city on Tuesday, but groups closed three main roads demanding that public officials pay more attention to them.
Local media reported that demonstrations were scheduled for Wednesday outside the hotel where Brazil's national team is staying. Authorities said that depending on the size of the protests, it could be difficult for the teams and fans to make it to the match in the afternoon.
"It's impossible for the police to act against thousands of people trying to block traffic," officer Marcio Martins Sant'ana told ESPN Brasil.
FIFA said that security has been increased in general because of the protests, but no changes are expected in Belo Horizonte because of the presence of president Sepp Blatter at the Mineirao Stadium for the game. "FIFA is in constant contact with local authorities and has full trust in the security arrangement that have been made," football's governing body said.
Wednesday's opening ceremony of the "Football for Hope" forum in Belo Horizonte, which Blatter was going to attend, was cancelled.
Minas Gerais state officials said they will increase to nearly 6,000 the number of law enforcement officials deployed to try to keep the protests peaceful near the stadium and across the city of nearly 3 million people in south-central Brazil.
The state official in charge of security, Romulo de Carvalho Ferraz, told Brazilian media that 1,500 army troops will be on standby, but he said they were not expected to be needed. Ferraz said the troops had already been on standby before the other two matches in the city.
"I'm in favour of the protests," Brazil striker Fred said on Tuesday. "The people deserve better, but it has to be done without violence and without vandalism. Hopefully, the demonstrations will be peaceful tomorrow, without confrontations with the police."
Protesters have filled cities across the country to air a wide spectrum of grievances, including the high cost of hosting next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. There have been many violent protests before the Confederations Cup matches, including in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Fortaleza.
On Saturday, police estimated that about 60,000 demonstrators gathered in a central square in Belo Horizonte before heading toward the Mineirao Stadium before the match between Japan and Mexico. Riot police fired rubber bullets and used gas bombs and pepper spray to keep the protesters from advancing near the venue.
On Tuesday, protesters returned to the streets in smaller, sporadic protests in a handful of Brazilian cities. They came one day after President Dilma Rousseff proposed a wide range of actions to reform Brazil's political system.