Brazil Congress divided over alcohol sales at WCup
SAO PAULO (AP) -A congressional commission partially approved a bill regulating the 2014 World Cup in Brazil on Tuesday, but congressmen remained divided on whether to allow the sale of alcohol at games during the monthlong tournament, dealing a setback to FIFA and local organizers.
FIFA says Brazil has to allow the sale of beer inside stadiums during the World Cup and Confederations Cup next year, but some congressmen are against it because alcohol sales in Brazilian stadiums have been against the law for years.
The issue will be voted on separately on Wednesday, along with other changes which have been generating controversy in Brazil. Cheaper tickets for the elderly and to students, another guarantee currently allowed by Brazilian law, were approved despite FIFA's initial attempts to limit them.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said recently that he hoped the bill setting the legal framework for the World Cup would be approved in its entirety on Tuesday. Football's governing body wants the proposed law to take effect by the end of March, allowing organizers to get on with the job of preparing the country for the tournament.
The bill would give FIFA the necessary guarantees to organize the World Cup, the first in Brazil since the 1950 tournament. But critics say it gives too much power to FIFA and exempts football's governing body from responsibilities.
After approval in the commission, the bill will still have to be approved by the lower house and then by the senate. President Dilma Rousseff also has to sign it before it takes effect.
The vote was expected to happen two weeks ago, but it was delayed after some members of the commission asked for more time to analyze the proposed law.
The sale of alcohol remained the main sticking point, as Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor.
Critics say it took Brazil a long time to ban alcohol from its stadiums, a move they say ultimately reduced fan violence in Latin America's biggest country.
"If the commission approves this, we will take our fight to the (lower house and the senate), this is a mistake,'' said opposition congressman Wanderlei Macris.
The law would be in effect only during the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, and would allow only the sale of beer, and only in plastic cups. Only those in the VIP areas would have access to other types of alcoholic beverages.
"It's an exception, security will be reinforced during that time,'' congressman Afonso Hamm said.
Just before the vote on Tuesday, prosecutors met with lawmakers and asked them to oppose the sale of alcohol during World Cup, claiming that incidents involving violence and alcohol inside stadiums dropped significantly after the current law went into effect.
Congressmen on Wednesday will also try to remove text determining the definition of crime in cases of trademark infringement, as well as extending electronic visas to visitors to other sporting events in the country.
The text approved on Tuesday also said that those older than 60 will be entitled to half-priced tickets in all categories, and that students will pay less for 50,000 tickets for the 2013 Confederations Cup and 300,000 for the World Cup.
The approved text also kept unchanged issues regarding responsibilities for the event.
President Rousseff had said she wouldn't admit text saying that Brazil will be held responsible for problems caused by nature catastrophes or terrorist attacks. She said Brazil can be held accountable only in cases of omission or direct connection to damages and losses.
"FIFA wanted to see the civil responsibilities explicit on the text, but the federal government believes that the original text already contemplates what FIFA wants,'' congressman Renal Filho said.
He said the proposed law can still be changed until Rousseff signs it.
"Until then, FIFA will negotiate with the government to try reach an agreement,'' he said.
On Monday, Brazil's top consumer rights groups protested against the proposed law, urging the population to go on Twitter and Facebook to tell congressmen to vote against the bill. The Brazilian Institute of Consumer Rights said nearly 1,200 people protested on Facebook and some 5,000 tweets were posted in protest, making it the third most popular trending topic in Brazil.
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