RIO DE JANEIRO: Protesters hurling petrol bombs clashed with riot police as the curtain came down on the violence-plagued Confederations Cup Sunday with host nation Brazil downing world champions Spain in the final.
A fiesta of football inside Rio's iconic Maracana Stadium saw Brazil triumph 3-0 over Spain to seal their third title in a row, but the last day of the tournament saw no let-up in the protests that have taken place throughout the event.
More than a million Brazilians had taken to the streets during the tournament, venting anger at the estimated $15 billion being spent on both the Confederations Cup and World Cup while bemoaning the South American country's public services.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff - who was booed when she appeared alongside FIFA President Sepp Blatter at the opening game in Brasilia two weeks ago - declined to attend Sunday's final at the Maracana.
Instead Rousseff, whose popularity has plunged since the start of the unrest, issued a congratulatory message to the victorious Brazilian team.
"In this memorable campaign, our athletes showed joy, creativity, team spirit and unity which conquered all Brazilians and they offered the world a great spectacle.
"Today I joined all Brazilians in celebrating this great victory," said Rousseff.
Before kick-off outside the stadium a small group of hooded protesters, some armed with screwdrivers and slingshots, lit a fire in the street and hurled stones at police who responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets as helicopters circled overhead.
"Unfortunately, the incidents were started by protesters who hurled makeshift bombs and stones at police," Henrique Guelber of the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, told the G1 news website.
More than 11,000 police and troops were mobilized to ensure security for 78,000 fans at the Maracana as protests continued.
"We are against the privatization of the stadium and forced housing displacement, linked to the 2014 World Cup and the (2016 Rio summer) Olympics," said Renato Cosentino, a spokesman for one of the groups sponsoring Sunday's protest.
Hundreds of demonstrators also rallied in the Tijuca district, about one mile from Maracana, dancing and chanting: "FIFA, pay my (bus) fare" or "Maracana is ours."
"I am here in an act of patriotism, for more education, health, transport -- and less football," said 69-year-old Nelson Couto, wearing the green and yellow colors of the Brazilian flag.
Police invited the country's Bar Association as well as federal and state prosecutors to monitor their security deployment following charges of police brutality during earlier protests.
"Stop the genocide of Indians" or "political asylum for (WikiLeaks chief Julian) Assange," read some of the placards held by demonstrators.
Many protesters complain the government has found billions of dollars to build brand new stadiums for 12 World Cup host stadiums while transport, education and health remain underfunded.
Some of the demonstrations have been marred by sporadic violence and vandalism.
The mass protests were the largest in Rio where they brought 300,000 people into the streets on June 20, when they degenerated into violence and looting.
Despite the social turmoil, which began in Sao Paulo in early June over the rising cost of public transport, polls show more than two-thirds of Brazilians support their country hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
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