By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – With the wave of protests ongoing and the FIFA Confederations Cup drawing to a close, attention has turned to Brazil’s next major event: World Youth Day (WYD) and Pope Francis’ visit to Rio. Organizers expect millions of Catholics from Brazil and overseas to pour into the city during July 23rd-28th, just a few weeks from now.
As some demonstrations turned violent, causing damage to public and private property, officials have expressed concern over whether fresh protests could be sparked by the event.
“We have to be ready for WYD to occur in a climate of protests in the country,” said Secretary-General to the Presidency Gilberto Carvalho, adding that it was vandalism that had worried the government, not the protests which should be “celebrated”.
President Dilma Rousseff has attempted to quell the protests by vowing a “bruising attack” on corruption and offering five pacts to bring about political reforms and improved public services. It remains to be seen how that will effect the protests however.
Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno, president of the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), met Rousseff to seek assurances over security for the event in the event of protests during WYD, which she is reported to have given. The CNBB has lent its support to peaceful protests as a show of “Christian values”.
Rio’s detailed security plan has been praised by the Commander of the Gendarmerie (Vatican Police) General Domenico Giani: “I think that there will not be any safety issues, whether for the Pope or for those in attendance as we are studying everything down to the smallest details.”
A spokesperson for World Youth Day confirmed to The Rio Times that the event would continue and that scheduled events remained unaltered. The Metropolitan Archbishop of Rio, Orani Tempesta, said that, according to conversations held with the public authorities, the protests will not affect the event as it is “held in high esteem by all.”
The Archbishop believes what motivates the protesters “is in some ways similar to the spirit of WYD – the desire to work together for a new world, for a new life, a new society [with] values that also seek to change the world and are rooted in justice and peace, and that can offer a different perspective on these demands for change here in Brazil.”
However, a number of activists in Rio are planning on protesting at the event. Rio-based human rights activist Rafucko tells The Rio Times he would protest at a number of events, with favela and Indian evictions and police brutality high on his agenda, things he sees as deeply “un-Christian”: “Since the Pope will unite leaders, my protest is a request for him to say something for those in need, who suffer because of some of our politicians.”
Coinciding with the end of WYD, Rio’s Marcha das Vadias (Slutwalk) movement will take to the streets on July 27th, and is likely to call in part for an end to the criminalization of abortions in Brazil, which has led to thousands of women dying from black market abortions.
Despite some recent improvements in terms of rights, Brazil’s LGBT movement will almost certainly protest in some form over domestic issues such as the controversial “Cura Gay” motion currently being debated, as well as over the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality, Julio Moreira, president of Rio LGBT organization Grupo Arco-Íris, tells The Rio Times.
Earlier this year military and civil police in Rio had been in special training for these events, along with the city’s municipal guards, learning crowd control techniques. Some 4,520 police officers were expected to be trained in 2013 – with specialists from Spain, the U.S. and the Ministry of Justice sharing both practical and theoretical knowledge and experiences.