Brazil Braces For World Cup Crowds Amid Rise Of Violence In Rio De Janeiro
Tensions "are running high" in Rio de Janeiro, according to Samantha Pearson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Last week "the captain of the favelas’ new so-called pacification police unit, the UPP, was shot" -- the latest in a wave of attacks against police that comes less than 80 days before hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on Rio for the World Cup. Manguinhos, a 15-minute drive from Rio’s int'l airport, now resembles no-man’s land as military police clutch assault rifles to their bullet-proofed chests, eyeing groups of men "who sit staring at them from piles of rubble across the road." Community organizations say Rio’s latest escalation of violence "represents one of the biggest crises yet for Brazil’s offensive against the criminal gangs and militias that have haunted the country’s second-largest city for decades." The timing of the latest wave of violence "is no coincidence either," said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at Insper, a Brazilian higher education institute. The city "is in the spotlight" as it prepares to host the World Cup and then the 2016 Olympics. Melo said the events are encouraging gangs to exploit “a moment of visibility and the vulnerability of the government.” Brazil "is already under fire over its shoddy infrastructure and delays in building the required stadiums." Melo said that growing revulsion among favela residents over the excessive use of police force "also makes it an opportune time to act " (FT, 3/27).