In Brazil, Security Braces for Pan-American Games

Rio faced with security challenges, trying to catch up on training before July games


Development: Federal police forces held a joint operation in Rio de Janeiro on 24 April to train 430 security agents for the Pan-American Games, which will be held in the city in July.

Significance: Brazilian authorities are running against time to improve Rio's security problems before the Games. Rio's governor, SĂ©rgio Cabral, has even requested the help of the armed forces to fight organised crime on the streets. The request has been accepted by President Lula da Silva, even though the military command is determinedly against it. How the troops will be deployed is as yet unknown.

Yesterday's operation involved agents from 11 Brazilian states. Helicopters and bullet-proof vehicles were used to monitor the city. All entry points to the city have been cordoned off and vehicles were searched. The idea, it seems, is to make this sort of operation more frequent as July approaches. In the past three years, in operations such as this, the authorities managed to seize 6.6 tons of cocaine and 6,105 fire guns. Figures for the latest operation have not yet been released.

Many critics say that Cabral's recent push against crime is "just showing off" to keep gangs quiet during the Pan-American Games. They say his public security plans are based on repression and that they have no provision for improving living conditions and for tackling unemployment among the young and poor. Critics are doubtful that this repressive tactic will work in the long run. Many claim that without social work there will be an even more violent backlash in the future.