RIO DE JANEIRO: Hospitals reporting an unspecified number of casualties after Molotov cocktails exploded as protesters tried to march on Maracana here before and during the final of the Confederations Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Activists – angry at everything from government spending on social welfare and education to transport prices and hospital closures – had forecast a greater turn-out than the estimated 300,000 who marched last week in Rio which, apart from hosting next year’s World Cup Final will also stage the Olympic Games in 2016.

As kickoff neared so the military police unleashed the first salvos of tear gas to try to control an increasing tense situation.

Peaceful protest marches had begun at various different points in Rio. One was outside the headquarters of the Brazilian football confederation. At attempt to force an entry was repelled by security staff.

The manifestantes had hoped to join forces at or near the statue of Luiz Bellini, Brazil’s first World Cup-winning captain in 1958, outside the main entrance to Maracana. However the street had been blocked off by riot police supported by the armoured personnel carriers used in clearance actions against the favelas.

As the evening went on so tempers grew increasing inflamed, the confrontations in increasingly violent and hospitals began reporting both civilian and police casualties as well as protesters suffering from the effects of tear gas.

** Police outside Rio de Janeiro intercepted a truck with a cargo of 500 ‘fake’ Brazil shirts bound for unofficial sales outlets on the streets near Maracana.

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