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Brazillian sports minister not worried about World Cup protests

SAO PAULO — Brazil's sports minister is not expecting waves of protests during theWorld Cup next year, saying the Brazilian people will be more interested in celebrating the tournament than complaining about its cost.

Aldo Rebelo said Monday he doesn't think Brazil will face anti-government protests similar to those that took place during the Confederations Cup this year, when demonstrators used theWorld Cup warm-up event to attract attention to a wide range of causes. Among their complaints was the amount of money spent on the World Cup while millions of poor Brazilians continue to struggle.

"I don't believe we will see demonstrations during the World Cup," Rebelo said. "I think theWorld Cup will be protected by the will of the people to be supportive of a great event. The mood will be for partying, not for protesting, when the national teams and the tourists start arriving in Brazil."

Rebelo's comments come in contrast to what most analysts foresee during football's showcase event next year, when all eyes will be on Brazil and about 600,000 visitors will be in the country. They also expect more waves of protests during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"During the World Cup, there will be a lot more reason to celebrate than to protest," Rebelo said. "Even those who have reason to protest, they naturally won't choose to do it during the tournament."

About 1 million demonstrators took to the streets on a single night at the height of this year's protests across Brazil, which largely focused on corruption and woeful public services despite a heavy tax burden.

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke said recently he was satisfied with the police response during some of the protests that affected the six Confederations Cup host cities. The tournament went on as scheduled and none of the matches were disrupted. He said he expects the same type of response if protests happen again next year.

Valcke on Sunday had already dismissed concerns over the fan violence that has plagued the South American country inside and outside stadiums in recent months, saying that "football is a passion and you cannot control everything" in a huge country like Brazil.

"These kinds of things will not happen at the World Cup because we will have the highest level of security you can imagine," he said.

Rebelo also downplayed concern with the Black Bloc anarchists that have become a driving force behind protests in recent weeks. The demonstrations have lessened in size but not frequency since masses took to the streets in June.

"They are very small groups which can be controlled," Rebelo said. "Police can contain their vandalism."

The minister, who is the government official in charge of Brazil's preparations for the World Cupand the 2016 Rio Olympics, downplayed a recent threat by the country's largest organized crime group that promised to launch the "World Cup of Terror" next year, with attacks against police similar to those that spread fear across the nation in 2006.

"Our security system will not take any threat lightly, we will assess all possible risks," Rebelo said. "But in this case, it's a threat more against police, not against the public."

He added: "I'm certain that the threats to the risk areas, such as airports and subway systems, will not be as significant in Brazil as they are during events happening in Europe or in the United States."

Rebelo said he expects the remaining six World Cup stadiums to be completed by the December deadline established by FIFA, but acknowledged that not all infrastructure work in the 12 host cities may be finalized in time for the tournament next June.

"Most of them will be delivered before the World Cup," he said. "And the few that aren't ready by the World Cup will be completed shortly after and will remain as a legacy for the population."

The minister also said the World Cup in Brazil will mark an important stage in the fight against racism in football, saying the government is already working with FIFA and the United Nations to create programs to promote racial equality in the sport.

"We are a country of mixed population and very mixed origins," he said. "It will be important to show this. We value tolerance and despise hate. This is important to us and we think it's important to the rest of the world too."

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