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FIFA says it won't hide from Brazil protests during World Cup, not afraid of being targeted

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FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil - FIFA says it is concerned about security challenges during the World Cup in Brazil but isn't afraid of being targeted by public demonstrations expected in June.

"FIFA is not coming now with less people. Instead, we are increasing our staff during the World Cup, obviously, and we are not hiding our brand," director of security Ralf Mutschke said on Thursday. "FIFA is not feeling as a target and we are not hiding ourselves or our symbol. We are proud to be here and to celebrate the World Cup."

Football's governing body was satisfied with the high level of security that will be provided by Brazilian authorities, said Mutschke, who guaranteed FIFA "is highly committed to ensuring the safety and security for fans, players and any other stakeholder involved in our event."

Mutschke was at a workshop in the southern city of Florianopolis, where Brazilian officials made security presentations to representatives of all 32 teams, telling them and FIFA what to expect when they return in a few months.

"It is pretty easy to be concerned about the fate of the World Cup when you are reading, for example, reportings on ongoing public demonstrations, the lamentable scenes of fan violence, the apprehension in regards to street crime, child prostitution or drug trafficking," Mutschke said.

"There is no doubt about it, FIFA and the local organizing committee is condemning any form of violence. We just do not accept it."

The fears of violence stem from last June's protests that erupted around Brazil against corruption, poor public services and the billions of dollars being spent on the World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Many of the complaints were against FIFA, and at the time one of its clearly marked buses was damaged by protesters.

Mutschke said the demonstrations are not directly linked to FIFA and are about greater demands from Brazilian people.

"Obviously demonstrators took advantage that the World Cup and the whole world was looking to Brazil and they exploited the situation for all different reasons, as well as for the World Cup, for corruption, for spending too much money in the wrong direction and so on," he said.

Protesters carrying banners saying "FIFA Go Away" were common last year, and were seen even on Wednesday when a few dozen demonstrators gathered outside the upscale resort which hosted the workshop.

No matches were delayed during last year's Confederations Cup, although protests raged near the stadiums. Police had to maintain a security ring around the stadiums that mostly kept protesters at bay, but on a few occasions groups did break through.

"We saw during the Confederations Cup, when at one point we had one million people on the streets, that no match was interrupted, no fan was unable to get to a match and no team delegation faced any problems," said Andrei Rodrigues, one of the Brazilian government's officials in charge of security during major events. "It was a thorough test of public safety and it was considered a success."

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said this week that Brazil's armed forces could be called on to contain possible violent protests during the World Cup.

Rodrigues reiterated that peaceful protests will not be prohibited at any point, but any acts of violence and vandalism will not be tolerated.

Brazil is expected to use 150,000 professionals from security forces and armed forces during the World Cup. The total public investment in safety during the event is nearly $800 million, according to the justice ministry.

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Follow Tales Azzoni on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tazzoni

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