RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Few things could damage the image of Brazil more than violent street protests during the World Cup.
Demonstrations during June's Confederations Cup — the World Cup warm-up — caught Brazil's police and military police by surprise. There will be no surprises this time, on either side.
Brazil's police are getting training from their French counterparts, and followers of the Black Bloc anarchist movement have announced plans for demonstrations, starting with the opening World Cup match on June 12 in Sao Paulo. A Black Bloc Facebook page lists demonstrations for June 13 in Natal, Salvador and Cuiaba, followed by six more protests in six cities on June 14 and 15. And more are promised.
Security is on the agenda as football's world governing body FIFA meets in the run-up to Friday's World Cup draw.
At the peak of this year's protests, 1 million people took to the streets across Brazil in a single day, complaining initially of higher bus fares, corruption and poor public services, and then extending to the billons being spent on the World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
At least six people died in connection with the protests.
"There will be no World Cup," became one of the mass movement's most popular chants. "FIFA go home." was another.
The protests have continued, growing less frequent but more violent, and authorities must prepare even if the threats never materialize.
Jerome Valcke, the top FIFA official in charge of the World Cup, said recently the football tournament would have "the highest level of security you can imagine" to contain any violence.
Efforts are underway to improve the image of Brazil's military police, whose troops can look menacing patrolling the streets in light armor. They have been given new uniforms, including stylish berets, and lessons in managing social disturbances, and many are visible at high-profile places such as Cobacabana beach.
The French were in Brazil last month, and the influence is clear.
"Brazil has experience since they deal with security issues mainly in the favelas (slums), but the way you work in the favelas is different to the way you work in large events," said Capt. Jean-Louis Sanche, a member of France's elite CRS police force. "There's a difference in the way you use your resources. We are here to pass on this know-how."
Brazilian military policeman Marcos Palermo soaked up the training.
"Absolutely this will be used during the World Cup, which promises big protests. We are preparing ourselves early on," Palermo said.
Few would have imagined that a World Cup in Brazil, the sport's spiritual homeland and most famous name, might cause problems.
This World Cup — opening June 12 in Sao Paulo and closing July 13 in Rio — might go down as the best in history, and Brazil could showcase its friendly people, hospitality and love of a good party. A successful World Cup could pave the way for the 2016 Rio Olympics, which will cost about $15 billion in public and private money.
A victory might also help President Dilma Rousseff, who is up for re-election shortly after the Cup ends.
Brazil will be among the four favorites along with Germany, defending champion Spain and Lionel Messi's Argentina. The other four seeded teams are Belgium, Switzerland, Uruguay and Colombia. Perennial contenders such as Italy, France and the Netherlands are also in the mix.