Sao Paulo transit strike snarls traffic just days before the World Cup
Sao Paulo is set to head into a third day of a subway strike that has brought massive traffic jams to the Brazilian metropolis. The latest strike to hit Brazil has raised fears of disorder during the soccer World Cup.
Police used tear gas and wielded batons to disperse striking transit workers as commuters tried to enter one of the main subway stations in Brazil’s largest city on Friday.
The scuffle came on the second day of a work stoppage aimed at winning higher wages. Late on Friday, officials from both management and the union said they had still not reached an agreement to end the strike, meaning the work stoppage would continue for a third day on Saturday – with no indication that it would end anytime soon.
The latest strike to hit Brazil in the run-up to the World Cup caused havoc for soccer fans trying to travel to and from Sao Paulo’s Morumbi Stadium, for the national team’s 1-0 win in a friendly against Serbia on Friday night. With many of the subway system’s users turning to their cars as an alternative, bumper-to-bumper traffic snarled many of the city’s main thoroughfares.
The transit strike in Sao Paulo is just the latest work stoppage to hit Brazil in the months leading up to the World Cup. Bus drivers, teachers and police have all staged walkouts of their own to demand higher wages. In some cases the tactic has worked, with federal police and garbage collectors in Rio de Janeiro winning pay rises.
The chaos that gripped Sao Paulo is precisely what organizers are keen to avoid during the World Cup, which kicks off with Brazil hosting Croatia on Thursday. A protest against rising public transit fares in Sao Paulo during last year’s Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, grew into nationwide demonstrations against the reported $11-billion (8 billion euros) that the Brazilian government is spending to host the tournament. On one night alone last year, an estimated one million Brazilians took to the streets to protest, with many demanding that the government put more money into social services, such as hospitals and schools.