Brazil, police at odds on security readiness for Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 5 (UPI) — With the Summer Olympics only one month away, Brazil’s government and Rio de Janeiro police are at odds on security as violence is rising and the police force faces financial problems.

Police officers say they haven’t been paid by the state government in months.

Some officers posted a sign that says “Welcome to Hell” outside Rio’s main airport. “Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe,” the sign said.

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Rio de Janeiro state, which controls the region’s military police force, requested $850 million in emergency funds from the federal government for transportation and security, including money to pay officers their bonuses and overtime.

The financial needs come in wake of rising crime.

On-duty officers killed 40 people in May compared with 17 people during the same period last year, according to figures from Brazil’s Public Security Institute published last week and distributed by Amnesty International. Last year, police killed at least 307 people in Rio — a figure that accounts for 1 in every 5 homicides there, according to Amnesty.

“Brazil has one of the highest levels of homicides in the world, with around 42,000 people killed with guns every year,” Atila Roque, Amnesty International’s Brazil executive director, said in a statement.
“Those living in the most marginalized areas of the city are disproportionally affected by this crisis.”

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes told foreign journalists last week about the state government’s “terrible” security organization for the Olympic Games.

On Monday, however, Paes softened his tone, stating that “security is not an Olympic problem, public security has been a problem in Rio for as long as one can remember. It is a problem for all of us, always.”

The Ministry of Justice says a joint federal, state and local security arrangement has been set up.

Andrei Rodrigues, head of the ministry’s special secretariat of security for major events, says 85,000 agents, including armed forces personnel, police officers and firefighters “will be at hand to ensure safety on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.”

“We believe that with the reinforcement of our policing operations, supported by the armed forces and by members of forces from other countries, we will have the full capacity to guarantee a peaceful environment,” Rodrigues said.

Background check have been conducted on about 400,000 people, including volunteers, journalists and officials. So far, 7,262 people have failed the checks and accreditation requests have been turned down.

“We are ready to start the games,” Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, said at a press conference Tuesday, adding that the event “could start today.”

Rio’s mayor, appearing at the news conference, said his city is far from perfect.

“The Games offered us an opportunity to look at our troubles and work to make us a better city,” Paes said. “Do not expect New York City, Chicago, or London when visiting.”

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