Security cuts under the spotlight in run-up to Rio
$550 million drop in budget branded ‘a disaster’ by experts
R io de Janeiro’s state security secretary acknowledges that cuts of $550 million to his budget pose a risk to the Olympics when they open in three months.
“If I said the cuts won’t impact anything, I wouldn’t be accurate,” said Jose Mariano Beltrame (pictured).
“I wish I could have more policemen. I wish they could work twice as much on the streets.”
Security sits at the top of a long list of worries for South America’s first games: Zika virus, polluted water in venues for sailing and rowing, slow ticket sales, and political and economic turmoil as President Dilma Rousseff fights against impeachment.
Beltrame said Rio will deploy about 65,000 policemen and up to 20,000 soldiers to guard the games, the largest contingent in Brazilian history. The number is about twice as large as London’s force four years ago.
Some of that effort is aimed at keeping gangs from hillside favelas from reaching Olympic venues.
The military is expected to protect the venues as the police work the rest of the city, guarding subway lines, bus routes and busy streets. Beltrame is expecting protests, and said police will draw on experience from the 2014 World Cup and the Confederations Cup the year before. “In any event of this size they happen,” he added. He said the cuts, which come to a little less than a fifth of security’s operating budget, will reduce bonuses, overtime pay, and keep him from hiring more police. He called new equipment, technology, and integration the legacy of the Olympics. Fewer police could mean slower response time, and hurt team spirit.
“The morale issue does affect people,” said Beltrame. “But the institutions are not going to stop.”
Former state public security secretary Luiz Eduardo Soares was even more worried than Beltrame, calling the budget cuts “a disaster”.
“We have serious problems in our day-to-day work, but we have adapted well to exceptional situations like the World Cup in 2014 and the visit of Pope Francis in 2013,” said Soares.
“But the cuts will affect morale. Officers are underpaid, they fear delays in being paid, and their working hours are not respected.”