By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As more than 144 million Brazilians get ready to go to the polls on Sunday, October 2nd, for municipal elections, federal, state and local authorities scramble to guarantee the safety of both voters and candidates during election day. Since August, when election campaigns officially started, more than twenty mayoral candidates have been assassinated in the country.
The survey conducted by website Congresso em Foco, (Focus on Congress) shows that the state of Rio de Janeiro leads the list of places where candidates were shot at, threatened and killed.
Last week in Rio de Janeiro, samba school president and Rio city council candidate Marcos Falcon was killed by two masked gunmen who entered his campaign committee office.
Among those killed this week was candidate, Jose Gomes da Rocha, vying to become mayor of Itumbiara, located in the interior of Goias state. Rocha was shot and killed as he attended a rally on Wednesday.
Judge Gilmar Mendes, Chief Justice of Brazil Electoral Court (TSE) has asked the Ministry of Defense for the armed forces to provide security in at least 14 states on Sunday. According to Mendes some of the killings seem to be linked to militias and criminal groups.
“The last thing we want is the presence of organized crime in the political system,” said Mendes on Thursday.
Defense Minister, Raul Jungmann, announced that twenty-five thousand armed forces personnel will be at hand in 409 municipalities in fourteen states throughout the country to insure the safety of voters during election day. Most of the states to receive extra security from the armed forces are in the North/Northeastern parts of the country, like Amazonas, Para, Maranhão, Roraima, and Tocantins. Rio de Janeiro will be the only state in the Southeastern region to receive armed forces personnel.