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September 23, 2017

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Thousands gather in Brazil to protest against the World Cup

SAO PAULO--Thousands of Brazilians backing a movement to help homeless workers rallied in Sao Paulo late Thursday to protest a lack of housing, shoddy public services and huge spending on the World Cup.

Police put attendance at 15,000 while organizers said it was more than double that.

Despite the rain, the Homeless Workers Movement said the rally was among the biggest in weeks of protests in Brazil as the country prepares to host the World Cup in three weeks' time and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

"We are here to protest against the Cup, against the huge spending on the World Cup while we do not have housing or healthcare or anything else," said Luiz Giovani, a member of the movement.

The march was peaceful as it passed through a major commercial district of Brazil's largest city.

Banners carried by demonstrators included some that said "FIFA go home," in reference to football's world governing body.

It was the latest in a series of demonstrations in recent weeks by the homeless movement.

The World Cup will cost Brazilian taxpayers US$11 billion.

Earlier on Thursday commuters in Sao Paulo faced huge traffic jams caused by a paralyzing bus drivers' strike.

The two-day protest stranded more than a million passengers and unleashed transit chaos on the economic hub of Brazil.

Most buses were running again after city officials and the transport union reached a deal with drivers to end the strike at midnight.

Commuters, however, still faced stalled traffic stretching 170 kilometers (more than 100 miles) — a morning rush hour record in this sprawling city of 20 million people.

The drivers were rebelling against their own union, which had agreed to a 10-percent pay increase in negotiations with management. They wanted more.

Brazil has faced a wave of strikes and protests in the run-up to the games and elections in October. Police, teachers and bank security guards have all gone on strike in recent weeks.

Last week, about 5,000 members of the homeless movement set fire to car tires and marched to Corinthians Arena, the city's World Cup stadium, to protest the tournament's hefty price tag.

Similar protests last year during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, drew one million people to the streets and at times turned violent.

Two thirds of Sao Paulo's residents believe hosting the World Cup is bringing Brazilians more harm than good, according to a survey published Thursday by polling firm Datafolha. Ninety percent said hosting the games has fueled corruption.

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