World Cup 2014: Sao Paulo subway strike suspended but transit fears persist

CBC

Subway workers late on Monday suspended a strike that crippled traffic in Brazil’s biggest city, but warned they could resume their walkout on Thursday, when Sao Paulo hosts the first game of the 2014 soccer World Cup.

Fans arriving in the city earlier Monday were met by daunting traffic jams and other delays after police used tear gas to disperse the striking workers. It was the fifth day of salary protests. Union leaders and local authorities are to renew negotiations on Wednesday.

In a separate incident Monday, a construction worker helping to build a new monorail — a project meant to expand the city’s outdated transit network before Brazil hosts the 2016 Olympic Games — was killed after a large concrete support beam fell while it was being erected.

Originally, the expansion of the metro system was meant to be completed before the World Cup to help fans move around the congested city. But in 2011, just a year after construction began, the government already warned it wouldn’t be ready in time for the Cup.

‘It’ll be chaos’

The metro walk-out added to widespread concerns over whether Brazil’s government can prevent street protests and other simmering labour disputes from disrupting the World Cup, which starts on Thursday when Brazil and Croatia face off at a controversial new stadium on Sao Paulo’s long-neglected east side.

The strike caused giant traffic jams again on Monday, creating huge delays for soccer fans trying to get into the city.

Many waited for around two hours in lines for taxis at the city’s international airport and spent another two or three hours to reach their hotels.
“If this continues, it’ll be chaos,” said Miguel Jimenez, a fan from Mexico.

Sao Paulo, also Brazil’s business hub, will host five matches after the opener, including a semi-final.

Brazil has drawn criticism at home and abroad for failing to complete key infrastructure projects on time. It is expected to put on a good World Cup, but many Brazilians are angry over how much was spent and how the country still struggled to be ready.

“We’ve known this was going to happen for years, but nobody solved these problems,” said Ricardo Fars, a Brazilian manager for a technology company who returned to Sao Paulo from a business trip in Peru on Monday and waited at least two hours for a taxi.

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