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Brazil: With tensions high amid protests, soccer tournament goes on

From Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
June 23, 2013 -- Updated 1454 GMT (2254 HKT)
The Confederations Cup matches is seen as a World Cup warm-up tournament involving eight nations.
The Confederations Cup matches is seen as a World Cup warm-up tournament involving eight nations.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brazil hosts two Confederations Cup matches Sunday amid nationwide protests
  • Protesters took to the streets on Saturday outside a match in Belo Horizonte
  • Hundreds of thousands continue to protest despite president's warnings against violence

Rio de Janeiro (CNN) -- Brazil, rocked by recent nationwide protests, hosts two high-profile football games on Sunday in preparation for next year's World Cup.

On Saturday, there were demonstrations surrounding the Confederations Cup matches, a World Cup warm-up tournament involving eight nations.

In the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte, outside the stadium where Japan and Mexico played, protesters flooded the streets and clashed with riot police. Brazil's state-run news agency, Agencia Brasil, reported that approximately 66,000 people came to protest, according to military police.

CNN affiliate Band News showed aerials of crowds clashing with riot police and police using rubber bullets and tear gas to keep protesters at bay.

Brazil diplomat: Keep protests peaceful
Grievances unleashed in Brazil protests

Smaller protests also occurred in other parts of Brazil on Saturday, a day after President Dilma Rousseff addressed the nation, warning that the government would not tolerate violence.

In Salvador, a small crowd of peaceful demonstrators gathered outside the stadium where Brazil's national football team won over Italy. Elsewhere, in Sao Paulo, military police estimated a crowd of 30,000 flooded the city's main road, according to state-run Agencia Brasil.

The protests over the weekend are part of a movement that has brought together Brazilians angered by their government. Protesters say the government is falling short in its duties to its citizens while spending lavishly on events such as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. While most of the protests have remained peaceful, there have been reports of sporadic violence, which has resulted in two deaths.

Public transportation fare hikes spurred the discontent weeks ago, but protests continued to escalate last week despite various state governments repealing the fare hikes.

Until now, the government's position has been to support the protests as peaceful freedom of expression. It is unclear whether there will be a shift if violent incidents mount and the unrest continues.

On Friday, Rousseff announced that she planned to meet with leaders of the protest movement, but did not publicly detail when or where the meetings would take place. Her remarks followed an emergency meeting with her Cabinet.

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