RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Rio de Janeiro's new governor said Wednesday federal troops will be used to fight growing gang violence plaguing the state and will be deployed to protect public safety during the upcoming Pan American Games.
Gov. Sergio Cabral made his remarks after meeting with National Security Secretary Luiz Fernando Correa, Rio de Janeiro State Security Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame and representatives of the armed forces and federal police.
Drug gangs opened fire on police stations and set fire to buses last week in attacks that killed 19 people and have hurt tourism in Rio, Brazil's second-largest city.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the attacks were "terrorism that must be dealt with by the strong hand of the Brazilian state."
At the meeting, it was decided that Brazil's National Security Force will first be deployed along the state's borders "to prevent the entry of weapons, drugs and criminals from other states" Ivone Malta, a state government spokeswoman, said by telephone.
"The presence of this force will gradually expand to other parts of the city to guarantee public security during the Pan American Games in July," Malta said.
The Pan American Games are an Olympic-style competition for athletes of the Western Hemisphere including nations from Latin America, the Caribbean, the United States and Canada.
She said that because of "strategic" reasons, the governor did not say how many troops would be called up nor when they would start arriving in Rio.
The National Security Force, comprising some 7,000 elite state police troops recruited from around the country, was created in 2004 after regular police forces started having increasing difficulty in quelling extreme violence.
The forces have been deployed three times since they were created, though never in Rio or Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo suffered a similar wave of attacks in May that left nearly 200 people dead, including some 40 police officers.
Cabral also will also ask the federal government to send Army, Navy and Air Force troops to protect military installations in Rio.
In an interview published Wednesday by the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, Cabral said he wanted federal troops in place to keep the violence from marring the city's five-day Carnival bash in February, when tourists flood the city for its world-famous samba parades.
Rio is one of the most violent cities in the world, with an annual homicide rate of 50 per 100,000 people. The violence rarely spills out of the shantytowns and into the tourist districts, however.
Authorities say drug gangs launched last week's attacks in response to increased pressure from anti-criminal militias, reportedly run by former and active-duty police officers.