THE letter F could quite easily be used to refer to Fuleco, the cute little native armadillo who is this year's World Cup mascot, but an altogether less cuddly element of events in Brazil this summer are the dreaded favelas, the urban slums which continue to blight this country.

Loading article content

As much as the world cup organisers would prefer to airbrush away the lawless, drug-infested and warren-like dwellings of an estimated 11.4 million of the country's 190 million population - to be fair the government also claims to be spending £700 million on improving them - only yesterday there was a further demonstration of the favela's capacity to derail events, on the very doorstep of the Maracana Stadium itself.

Police who fight a daily battle over these areas from the drug gangs are desperate to gain control of them once and for all ahead of both the World Cup and the Olympics which follow two years later, but heavily-armed units met fierce opposition when they stormed a favela in Rio de Janeiro, attempting to oust squatters who are occupying buildings just two months before the World Cup.

At least seven people were injured as officers dragged them from an abandoned building and surrounding shacks, as residents fought with police, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails and set parts of the building and vehicles on fire.

Violent protests later erupted in surrounding neighbourhoods where a police car, buses and trucks were torched, and banks and supermarkets looted.

For all the governmental good intentions - it taps into legacy, social mobility and various other buzz words - for now the favela remains a law unto itself.

Stewart Fisher