Se­cu­rity cuts un­der the spotlight in run-up to Rio

$550 mil­lion drop in bud­get branded ‘a dis­as­ter’ by ex­perts

7 Days in Dubai - - SPORT -

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.”

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