“Welcome to Hell.”
“Whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.”
Tourists arriving in the city one month before the Olympic Games have been greeted by police and firefighters with signs bearing those words, as part of a protest against the state government.
As Rio de Janeiro state confronts a fiscal crisis, it has delayed payments to these and other public workers and sought emergency funds from the federal government.
Police and security personnel in Rio de Janeiro are regularly overseen by the state government — which is broke — while the Olympic Games are under the jurisdiction of the city government, which is solvent.
Most sporting events will take place miles outside the city in a suburban area that is much safer than Rio’s worst crime spots, but some tourists are likely to stay in central neighborhoods closer to problem areas.
In 2014, most foreign arrivals for the World Cup finals reported receiving a warm welcome here, though there were sporadic reports of petty crime. Since then, the economy has badly worsened as the country also confronts a months-long political crisis that will not be resolved before the Games end.
State Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame recently said that officers should receive their delayed payments by early next week, but this did not stop protests at the Galãeo international airport.
“We’re fed up with horrible work conditions, punishing hours, obsolete weapons, worn-out bulletproof vests and guns that don’t work,” one protester, who did not want to be identified, told local media. “There’s no paper in the offices, nothing has been cleaned and we have no gas for our squad cars.”
Bevins is a special correspondent.