A subway strike brought much of Sao Paulo to a halt on Thursday, as workers demanding higher wages shut down public transportation in South America’s largest city a week before it hosts the World Cup’s opening match.
A partial metro shutdown created massive traffic jams in one of the more disruptive of the urban protests that have been commonplace across Brazil in recent weeks. The strike is expected to continue Friday, though Mayor Fernando Haddad gave assurances that the dispute would be resolved before next week’s kickoff.
Cities in Brazil have been hit by periodic chaos since last month as strikes and protests, often linked somehow to the high cost of hosting the soccer World Cup, have continued despite government attempts to resolve them.
During afternoon rush hour Thursday, cars crawled along for miles in downtown Sao Paulo, while some taxis and drivers swerved in and out of bus lanes. Some commuters waited on the street for hours until night fell.
At the metro station that serves the stadium where the opening match between Brazil and Croatia will be held next Thursday, angry commuters broke through barriers and invaded the train tracks, video posted on local media sites showed.
“We want to work, we want to work!” they shouted.
The new Arena Corinthians, sometimes referred to as Itaquerao, is in a working-class district heavily dependent on public transportation. At the last test match for the new stadium, held Sunday, fans were unable to use all of the stands because a major section had not yet been given safety approval by the fire department.
In addition to those with broad demands for better schools, hospitals and transportation infrastructure, many unions, teachers and workers, including police, have used the period before the tournament to pressure the government for higher wages or better working conditions.
Another group, the Homeless Workers Movement, has occupied a piece of land near Arena Corinthians and is demanding housing for its members’ largely poor families. On Wednesday, thousands of the Homeless Workers marched on the stadium.
Bevins is a special correspondent.