By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The state of Rio de Janeiro further reinforced its security force for the 2014 World Cup games last week on Friday, June 6th, when almost a thousand new Military Police officers graduated from the Curso de Formação de Soldados (Training Course for Soldiers).
The 979 male and 10 female graduates comprise the largest Military Police graduating class in the state since 1809 and will be employed to both strengthen security during the games and to aid with the ongoing Police Pacification Unit (UPP) program.
Rio de Janeiro Governor Luiz Fernando de Souza, better known as Pezão presided over the graduation ceremony held at Centro de Formação e Aperfeiçoamento de Praças (CEFAT), located in the Zona Oeste (West Zone) neighborhood of Sulacap and said: “Safety is a priority in my administration. When we entered the State Government in 2007, there were 33,000 police officers. Today there are 48,000.”
“Today we opened the registration for 6,000 additional vacancies, to begin to train new recruits. We are putting officers in places where there were no police before and more than 1.5 million people have benefited from the peace that has been created,” added the governor.
The Brazilian government has already spent upwards of R$1.9 billion on security throughout the country for the 2014 FIFA World Cup games, which will begin on Thursday, June 12th and run through July 13th. The city of Rio de Janeiro alone will host seven games, including the championship final on July 13th.
Military, federal and civil police, in addition to the Brazilian Navy, Army and Air Force will all play roles in security measures enacted during the tournament and will work together, through bases called Integrated Centers of Command and Control (CICCs).
Also needing to be seen in a positive light during the World Cup, are the UPPs. The pacification program, which began in Rio in 2008, has grown to 38 units with approximately 2,000 officers.
While Pezão stated that, “1.5 million people have benefited” from the peace created by the program, earlier this year a Public Security Institute (ISP) report showed that while homicides, during the past four years, had decreased by 65 percent in favelas with a UPP installed, the crime might merely be migrating to places without Pacifying Units; thus increasing the need for tighter security throughout the city and surrounding areas.
Additionally in Rio, there are growing complaints about surges in street crime and the police reaction to said crimes. Muggings increased nineteen percent in 2013 according to some statistics and although homicides in Rio had fallen to their lowest recorded level in 2012, they increased again between January and September 2013 by 4.8 percent.
During the World Cup, violence during protests is also among security priorities. Law enforcement officials were criticized for ‘heavy-handed’ responses to the massive countrywide protests that swept the country, during last year’s Confederations Cup.
In Rio, the effectiveness of the security procedures will come under close scrutiny as the city is also scheduled to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The city recently faced heavy criticism for its preparations thus far for the Games and although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) denies speculation that the Olympic Games might be withdrawn from the city, Rio needs as much positive publicity as possible.