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Brazilian Police Clash with Subway Strikers as World Cup Nears

  • VOA News

Residents hold up signs that read, "Metro workers: The people support you," outside Ana Rosa subway station during the fifth day of metro worker's strike in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 9, 2014.
Brazilian police fired tear gas Monday at protesters supporting striking Sao Paulo subway workers, snarling transportation in the country's biggest city just three days before it hosts the opening World Cup match.

The five-day-old labor dispute could extend to Thursday when Brazil opens the quadrennial competition against Croatia at a stadium about 20 kilometers from central Sao Paulo.

About 150 strikers and their supporters set fire to piles of garbage on one central avenue. Police fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse them.

Demonstrators shouted, "There will not be a Cup, there will be a strike!"

Subway workers are seeking a pay increase just above 12 percent, while the government's subway company has countered with an 8.7 percent offer.

A Sao Paulo labor court ruled Sunday the strike is illegal and fined the workers' union $175,000 for the first four days of the strike. It said the fine would increase by $220,000 for each day the work stoppage continues.

The subway workers' dispute is the latest in a string of anti-government protests against government spending to host soccer's biggest event and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The demonstrators say Brazil should be spending more on such public services as hospitals and schools to directly benefit its population.