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World & Nation

Brazil beefs up security for the Olympics after high-profile attacks

Rio
Brazilian police carry out a security drill ahead of the Olympic games at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
(Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP/ Getty Images)

Brazil’s government on Thursday announced additional security measures for the Summer Olympics after a string of violent incidents in Rio de Janeiro. 

On Sunday, Australian Paralympian Liesl Tesch was robbed of a bike at gunpoint while cycling near her hotel in the stylish Flamengo Beach area. 

The same morning, armed men invaded Rio’s largest emergency public hospital to free a drug trafficking suspect who was receiving treatment under police guard. Another patient was shot and killed in the crossfire.

On Wednesday, five people were killed when a firefight broke out in a slum as police searched for the missing suspect, Nicolas Pereira de Jesus, popularly known as “Fat Family.” He remains at large.

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In a news release Thursday, the federal government said it would provide an extra “visible security presence” starting July 1 to protect the 500,000 tourists who are expected to start arriving for the August games.

“We will guarantee safety at all access ways to the Olympics, in train stations and in the airports,” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said in the statement. “I can guarantee that Brazil will show the world a festival that is filled with joy, but also marked by tranquility.”

The government had planned to deploy 38,000 soldiers to bolster security around the country during the Olympics, but last week, the state of Rio de Janeiro asked for reinforcements. Those extra troops will be provided, the Defense Ministry said without specifying a number. 

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Under normal circumstances, security in Rio is the responsibility of the state government. The invasion of the hospital was especially embarrassing to local police because they had reportedly been tipped off  about the plan.

Rio suffers from a high crime rate. But that has not prevented the city from hosting large numbers of tourists during events such as the annual Carnival celebrations and the 2014 soccer World Cup.

Some visitors fell victim to petty crime during the soccer tournament, but most gave the country high marks for its hospitality.

“Unfortunately, I do think that some tourists will be mugged during the Olympics. But overall, I think the majority will like the experience,” said Juliana Mendonca, a 21-year-old who has spent much of her life living near the site of the Games.

“Rio is a welcoming, beautiful city full of positive energy. It will be great for the gringos. The problem is what will be left for us Brazilians after the event is over.”

Tesch, a gold medalist in sailing who has also competed on her national wheelchair basketball team, does not seem to have been put off from participating in the Paralympic Games in September. After the mugging, she tweeted to her followers that she was “Safe&secure in Rio.”

“On track4September!” she said. 

Bevins is a special correspondent.

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