By Benjamin Parkin, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Luiz Fernando Pezão, announced that this week 2,000 policemen will begin to work on holidays and time off in the lead up to the World Cup. This adds to the current total of 47,000 officers scheduled to work. American private security firm Academi – formerly known as Blackwater – has also been training military and federal police for security during this June and July’s event.
Military police officers from 32 battalions in Rio will be required to work during their holidays and days off through payment of the Additional Service Regime (RAS). In addition to police, 2,480 national military soldiers will also be deployed in Rio, on top of the 2,450 who were deployed to occupy Complexo da Maré, favelas in the Zona Norte (North Zone) of Rio, in April.
In total, over 170,000 security personnel from the police and the military will be working across the country. This is 22 percent higher than in the previous World Cup, in South Africa in 2010.
Last week, 22 police officers returned from a three-week training camp, funded by the U.S. government, in Academi’s headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina. The group were there to train in counter terrorism.
In total, the U.S. government has spent US$2.2 million in partnerships with Brazilian police for the mega-events. Blackwater became known for their involvement in the Iraq War, as contractors of the U.S. government, and are notorious for their involvement in the Nisour Square massacre, of seventeen Iraqi civilians, in 2007.
The announcements about reinforced policing come amid increasing crime rates in Rio. The latest data released by the Public Security Institute (ISP) shows that violence in the state of Rio has reached pre-UPP (Police Pacification Units) levels. In the first third of 2014, 1,459 people were killed, compared to 1,562 in 2008, the year in which the first UPP was installed. In 2012, for example, there were 1,100 reported murders in the first trimester.
Street robberies this year have risen even higher, with 20,648 in the first third of 2008, falling in intervening years before jumping to 23,675 so far in 2014. There have been 9,209 car robberies in the first third of this year, also higher than 7,359 in 2008.
It is alleged that the presence of the UPPs in 250 of Rio’s favelas, weakening the power of organized crime, has caused criminals to “migrate” to other parts of the city, leading to a rise in crime across the city. “There is a change in the standard of criminality the Baixada Fluminense and other areas of Rio’s metropolitan area… The world of crime has been re-arranged,” explained Sílvia Ramos of Cândido Mendes University.
Large-scale demonstrations are also expected during the World Cup amid public discontent with preparations for June and July’s event, with an estimated bill of US$11 to US$13 billion, potentially even rising to US$15 billion, making it the most expensive World Cup ever. A recent poll showed that only 48 percent of the population supports the event, while 41 percent are against it. This is a significant change from 78 percent support and ten percent opposition in 2008.