BRASILIA: Brazil’s police will have a concerned United Nations peering over its shoulder when it confronts street protests during the World Cup finals in June and July writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Local media are reporting that the UN is demanding explanations from the government of President Dilma Rousseff over what it observers had described as “excessive use of police force,” in dealing with demonstrations during the Confedrations Cup last June.
The protests took the Brazilian government and world football federation FIFA by surprise as millions rose up all over the country in protest at a perceived imbalance between funds spent on sports infrastructure by comparison with social welfare.
The UN had demanded that Brazil respond by February 1 to its “deep concern” but – as with all the stadia construction – this deadline had also been ignored.
Hence the leak to the media of the original report denouncing alleged abuses and which was sent last June 26, before the Confederations Cup had even concluded.
It pointed out “alleged excessive use of police force against protesters [with] tear gas and rubber bullets [whose] deployment was arbitrary and violent. As a result, many protesters and journalists were injured.”
The UN also complained that police had thrown tear gas at restaurants and other private property, adding: “It was reported that a large number of peaceful demonstrators were arrested. Some were arrested even before participating in the protests.”
The UN also noted a concern about the treatment of journalists. This is particularly apposite right now in Brazil after the arrests of a number of journalists who had been reporting protests in Sao Paulo last weekend.
The UN questioned Brazil’s commitments to international agreements on human rights and demanded “full details of the legal framework for the use of force during peaceful protests basis.”
It also sought “detailed information about the legal basis for the arrests and detentions of peaceful demonstrators.”
Gilberto Carvalho, a Minister for Foreign Affairs, had little time for the UN report. He said: “”We need to tell the world that Brazil is an extremely democratic country. The world just needs to understand that Brazil has its own way of dealing with demonstrations.”
Carvalho rejected suggestions that the level of unrest in Venezuela would be imitated in Brazil. He said: “There is no risk because the Brazilian people know what is what. As for the street protests, anyone who tries to politicise a World Cup protest will be breaking their own face.
“”Football is one thing, politics is another. People know very well who tries to take advantage of this type of situation, so there’s no problem.”
The UN report had raised particular concern about safety of fans in Sao Paulo but Carvalho responded: “Violence exists anywhere in any country. I’ve been mugged in France, in Italy. We can not accept any suggestion that Brazil is an inhospitable country and offers any risk to tourists.”
Other concerns had been raised by the death of a Santos fan at the weekend after being attacked by supporters of rivals Sao Paulo.
World federation FIFA sent a message of condolence and regret which also “condemned any form of violence.”
The statement added an expression of confidence about World Cup security, saying: “For the World Cup a comprehensive security plan is ready, involving both private security and public authorities to ensure the safety of fans, players and any party involved in the event.
“This plan worked very well during the Confederations Cup and is based on models used at previous World Cups.”