Homeless families in Sao Paulo Cup protest

SAO PAULO (AFP) - Hundreds of families decrying property speculation staged a protest on Saturday near the Sao Paulo stadium which will host the World Cup opening match next month.

Blasting poor housing conditions and rising home costs in Brazil's business hub, the families protested near the Corinthians Arena, where the World Cup starts on June 12, Brazilian television reported.

Broadcaster Globo's G1 news portal said the group organised the rally around the Homeless Workers Movement (Mtst), three days after some 1,000 Mtst demonstrators clashed with police in the city.

The movement is angry at delays in expanding affordable housing in the Sao Paulo metro area, among other concerns.

The mayor's office concedes that the sprawling city of some 11 million is short of around 700,000 housing units.

The Mtst is furious that Brazil's leftist government has spent billions of dollars on World Cup preparations rather than attending to the country's huge social and infrastructural needs.

"The occupation is a demonstration that the investments in the Cup at Itaquera (the district home to the stadium which is also known by the name) are not reaching the people who need them most," the group said on its website.

"Although more than a billion reais (S$564 million) has been spent, not counting (venue) access facilities, thousands of families have no access to housing in Itaquera.

"Families occupying the site are living in areas of risk, slum areas or are unable to pay rents owing to property speculation resulting from the construction of the stadium which will host the opening of the Cup."

Globo reported military police were dispatched to the site some 4km from the arena, after the protest began shortly after midnight.

The protesters say the area they are occupying has lain empty for more than two decades.

Earlier this month, police evicted several thousand people who had moved into an unused property formerly owned by a telecoms firm in a northern district of Rio de Janeiro.

The nascent favela was in a district near the iconic and expensively refurbished Maracana stadium, which will host the World Cup final on July 13.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.