Rio Police Protest Raises Olympics Security Concerns, Including from Rio MayorPhoto by Mario Tama/Getty Olympics News
In addition to Zika scares, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and people throwing water onto the Olympic torch, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics are also facing major security concerns just a month before the start of the Olympic Games.
On Monday, police protested being unpaid for their services. A sign saying, “Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe,” was hung outside Rio’s airport for tourists and visitors to see.
“This is the most serious issue in Rio and the state is doing a terrible, horrible job,” said Rio mayor Eduardo Paes to CNN. “It’s completely failing at its work of policing and taking care of people.”
These comments occurred after Rio de Janeiro state officials issued an executive order to use emergency funds from the federal government to pay bonuses and overtime to police officers last week. Pay is expected to be distributed later this week.
For the Olympics, 85,000 additional police officers, including police from other Brazilian states and military personnel, will arrive in Rio, according to The Justice Ministry.
”(During the Games) the army, the navy, everyone is going to be here,” said Paes. “Fortunately the state will not be responsible for security during that period.”
However, some citizens are also concerned with police brutality, as death rates have increased—police officers killed 40 people in May, compared to 17 people last year, according to Amnesty International. Many of the victims were young, black men from low-income areas. State security officials have responded to these concerns by expelling officers that use excessive force and decreasing the use of heavy weapons in the police force, reports CNN.
Police are also worried about their own safety, pointing to the police departments being underfunded as cause for concern. “You encounter a drug trafficker armed with lots of ammunition and you only have only 20 bullets. It is absurd,” an anonymous police officer told CNN. Others have raised concerns of Rio’s police mainly being used to protect tourist-heavy areas, rather than poorer areas run by gangs.
State officials and Olympics representatives alike have tried to dispel concerns over safety by reassuring citizens and tourists that Rio is safe.
“We are ready to start the games,” said Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. “They will be a maximum success in this beautiful city of ours.”