- Associated Press - Thursday, June 27, 2013

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL (AP) - Authorities confirmed the death of a protester Thursday, the day after tens of thousands took to the streets and clashed with police as Brazil played Uruguay in the Confederations Cup semifinals. Police said about 20 people were reported injured and about 30 were arrested.

The host city awoke to scenes destruction: store windows destroyed, houses vandalized, a truck burned and several cars at a dealership showroom set on fire. Street cleaners swept up debris and broken glass while shop owners calculated the cost of the damage.

The protester was identified as 21-year-old Douglas Henrique Oliveira. Officials said he died of head injuries after falling from an overpass during demonstrations near Mineirao Stadium on Wednesday.

Another protester also fell from an overpass as nearly 50,000 marched toward the stadium, but authorities said his injuries were not life-threatening. There were also reports that one protester was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet and that another was injured by a gas bomb allegedly thrown by police.

Several hundred masked protesters fought with riot police as they tried to get closer to the stadium, angered with the government and the high cost of hosting the World Cup in Brazil.

Workers at a car dealership arrived in the morning to find five cars burned during the protests. Other vehicles were burned across the street. A spokeswoman for the Kia dealership estimated the losses at about $2 million. The store had already sustained damages last week before another Confederations Cup match in the south-central city.

“Are we going to invest here again? And how will it be during the World Cup? Will the state guarantee security? Is it worth risking it again? We are really afraid,” Larissa Lopes said.

Protesters threw rocks at shops and homes and painted walls with messages against the government and World Cup organizers.

“FIFA go home,” said one of them.

In recent weeks, Brazil has been swept by a wave of protests, many of them peaceful, demanding better public services, political reform and less corruption, among other things.

There have been protests in nearly all six Confederations Cup host cities so far, but some of the most violent have been in Belo Horizonte.

The protesters dispersed outside the stadium after Brazil’s 2-1 victory, but other groups of masked youngsters kept vandalizing shops on nearby streets. Local officials had declared a holiday Wednesday, with 100,000 people expected in the protests. Many business owners had already boarded up stores.

The fighting with police happened about a mile from the stadium at a perimeter where authorities set up barriers to keep protesters away, a normal procedure for international tournaments. Mounted police and riot units maintained another security line about a half-mile from the stadium.

The protests did not disrupt the game.

“Before the match we knew what was happening outside the stadium,” Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar said. “But we tried to focus only on the match. We understand what Brazil is going through, and it’s normal that these protests take some of the focus away from the Confederations Cup, but there are times that the players need to worry about their job on the field.”


Associated Press writer Renata Brito contributed to this report.

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