BELO HORIZONTE: Police fired tear gas to hold back protesters outside the Mineirao stadium here as tension and tempers built up around the Brazil v Uruguay semi-final in the Confederations Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Police had forecast that more than 100,000 activists would take advantage of the high profile of the game to raise further complaints about a raft of issues from social welfare expenditure to endemic corruption.

Belo Horizonte mayor Marcio Lacerda had declared the day a local holiday thus shutting schools and giving businesses and shops an opportunity to lock down their premises to guard against possible violence and looting later in the day.

Early in the afternoon local news sources reported that protesters had set fire to a bus on the outskirts of the city and that four main highways in the state had been blocked by demonstrators including the main link to the state of São Paulo.

Later, a crowd estimated at around 60,000 marched on the stadium only to find riot police blocking the highway. Skirmishes followed with tear gas unleased while hooligan gangs took advantage of the confusion to break in to a car showroom and set fires of rubbish on the streets and pavements.

Earlier protesters in one district of  Belo Horizonte blocked a road reportedly in support of demands for an improved water supply and better cellphone signal.

Police advised car travellers to carry food and water in case of long hold-ups.