By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio’s security officials have revealed plans for next week’s World Youth Day (WYD), which Pope Francis is set to attend in the first major overseas trip of his papacy. A regional defense coordination center for the event is being set up in the Guaratiba area of Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone) – the venue for central WYD events including the Vigil and masses by the Pope.
Reports say Operação Papa (“Operation Pope”) could see 35,000 security personnel drafted in, 10,200 of which from the Armed Forces.
Rio police says the Cobacabana area, in Zona Sul (South Zone), will be the most complex to manage, aside from the main WYD campus in Guaratiba.
WYD organizers say as many as 2.5 million visitors are expected to arrive in Rio for the event held July 23rd – 28th from across Brazil and worldwide – similar in number to the city’s Carnival and New Year celebrations but with the added concern of Brazil’s current climate of protests.
Rio has seen many demonstrations start out peacefully and subsequently turn violent. On Wednesday evening at least sixteen were arrested after protesters clashed with police, who used water cannons and rubber bullets despite a recent pact promising to reduce the use of the non-lethal weapons following allegations forces had been “excessive” and “indiscriminate.”
Police will, however, have both lethal and non-lethal weapons for use during WYD, although not inside the main campus. It has also been announced that those wearing masks will be barred from entering the area, along with organized groups and those displaying a “hostile attitude.”
The Brazilian Intelligence Agency, ABIN, has said it is on “red alert” over the possibility of mass protests during the event, and police have voiced concerns over the Pope’s decision not to use protective bulletproof glass on the so-called “Popemobile.”
Read more (in Portuguese).
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