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June 27, 2017

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Rousseff slams 'campaign' against 2014 World Cup

SAO PAULO--A strike by subway workers snarling Brazil's biggest city threatened Saturday to disrupt the World Cup as President Dilma Rousseff denounced a "systematic campaign" against the tournament.

The work stoppage over wage demands by staff has caused massive traffic jams for the past three days in Sao Paulo as the city prepares to host the opening game.

With five days to go until kickoff, authorities are hard-pressed to resolve the dispute before more than 60,000 fans descend on the Corinthians Arena for Thursday's game between Brazil and Croatia.

The arena itself has been plagued by delays and construction workers were racing against the clock to finish it before the opening whistle, wiping seats, checking beams and installing wiring in two temporary stands.

The city's subway strike is the latest social upheaval to hit Brazil, where protesters angry at the World Cup's US$11 billion bill have staged demonstrations.

Rousseff said the protests were orchestrated to derail her Workers Party (PT) before October 5 general elections.

"Today, there is a systematic campaign against the World Cup — or rather, it is not against the World Cup but rather a systematic campaign against us," Rousseff said late Friday in the southern city of Porto Alegre.

Rousseff, a leftist political prisoner during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, said that even in the days when the likes of Pele were leading Brazil to glory, "we did not confuse the World Cup with politics."

The president insists the money spent on the tournament will leave a legacy of modernized airports and transport infrastructure that will benefit Brazil for years to come.

But much of the other promised train and road infrastructure has been shelved, while five of the 12 stadiums have yet to be finished.

Rousseff's popularity has taken a hit, with an opinion poll showing that her support for the October election dropped to 34 percent in June from 37 percent in April.

She still led the pack of candidates, however, with her main rival, social democrat Aecio Neves, falling by one point to 19 percent.

Subway Clashes

In Sao Paulo, a court will rule Sunday on the subway strike's legality, but the union warned it could continue the work stoppage even if its loses the legal battle.

Workers have reduced an initial claim for a 16.5 percent wage hike to 12.2, but employers are offering only 8.7 percent.

The subway standoff led to a clash Friday between picketing strikers and police inside a metro station, with authorities swinging truncheons and firing tear gas to disperse the protesters.

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