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Rio police clash with crowd protesting cost of Pope visit

© Photo: AFP

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-24

Hundreds of demonstrators protesting the $53m cost of the pope’s Brazil visit clashed with police on Monday in Rio de Janeiro. Tear gas and water canons were used after one of the protesters threw a Molotov cocktail.

The first day of Pope Francis' Brazil visit on Monday was marked by clashes as Brazilian police dispersed hundreds of protesters with tear gas and water cannons. The incidents occurred near the Rio state governor's palace, where Pope Francis and Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff were meeting.

A photographer was seen with his face bleeding on the ground and at least one demonstrator was detained moments after the pope left the palace where he had spoken alongside the country’s president, AFP correspondents said.

An officer told AFP that the police charged the crowd after someone threw a Molotov cocktail.

The demonstrators were protesting the $53 million in public funds spent for the pope's visit, weeks after massive protests were held across the country to denounce corruption and government waste.

The violence marred the end of the pope's first day in Brazil, which began with throngs of pilgrims lining the streets to warmly welcome the 76-year-old Argentine as he crossed the city in an open-top jeep.

Pope Francis has generally been greeted with a rapturous welcome in a country which has recently been gripped by social unrest.

Monday’s protesters, whose grievances were directed towards the Brazilian leaders rather than the pope himself, chanted "Go away Cabral, go away Dilma," while a huge banner read: "Down with the fascist state and its anti-people governments".

Rousseff's popularity has plunged amid frustrations with corruption, poor public services and slowing economic growth. The leftist, Brazil's first female president, acknowledged the social discontent, saying Brazil's youth was fighting for "a new society."

After massive protests spiraled into violence in recent weeks, authorities are keen to ensure an incident-free visit for the pontiff, who will attend World Youth Day -- an event initiated in 1985 by Pope John Paul II -- which officially kicks off Tuesday. It is expected to attract 1.5 million young Roman Catholics.

Speaking at the governors palace on the first day of his trip Pope Francis said, "I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door.

"I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ," said the pope, who will lead an open-air sermon on Copacabana beach on Thursday.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-23

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