Published April 16, 2013
| Associated Press
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian officials said Tuesday they were closely following the investigation into the explosions at the Boston Marathon as they consider whether to change security measures for next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
But a top official with FIFA, soccer's world governing body, said his organization was already planning tougher security for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in light of the Boston attack.
FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said during a visit to Haiti on Tuesday that the measures would include secret service agents, police officers, military and Interpol.
Valcke also said a perimeter adding a second layer of security protection would be set up around Brazil's stadiums, with inspections of everyone passing through. As during the last World Cup in South Africa, a satellite will provide surveillance over Brazil, he said.
"As you can imagine with what happened in Boston, (security) will be even ... stronger," Valcke said at a news conference in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. "We will push the limit to make sure that we have the security, from the beach, to the airport, to the stadium."
Valke, who was in the Caribbean country as part of a delegation led by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, said the soccer organization will work with police departments from all 32 countries participating in the 2014 World Cup and will draw on security measures adopted during the 2010 event in South Africa.
While Brazil has never been a target of international terrorism, Monday's attack in Boston underscored how vulnerable big sporting events can be, and Brazil's foreign minister stressed that "all necessary measures" would be taken to make sure the upcoming mega-events are safe. Brazil is also two months away from hosting the Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up tournament.
"We are confident there will be measures which will guarantee the security of the events," Antonio Patriota told reporters in the capital, Brasilia, adding that authorities here were awaiting the conclusions of the investigation into the two Boston blasts.
Alexandre Castilho, a spokesman for the government department that oversees safety during major events, stressed that no changes to security plans had been made, but didn't rule out future changes.
"It would be too soon to change our strategy, especially because not even the American government has definite conclusions about what happened in Boston," Castilho said. "After hearing the first conclusions of the investigation in Boston we will start understanding if there is something that Brazil can learn from the case and incorporate it into our strategy ahead of the upcoming events. It could be something very useful for us, but it could be an isolated event, too, specific to the American scenario."
Castilho stressed that even before the Boston explosions, Brazilian officials had been preparing for a possible terrorist attack as part of its overall security strategy for upcoming events, including World Youth Day, a Roman Catholic pilgrimage to Rio de Janeiro that's expected to be attended by Pope Francis and as many as 2.5 million visitors in late July.
The 2016 Rio Olympic committee said security was a "top priority," while FIFA underscored its confidence in Brazilian authorities' ability to handle security for both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.
"Safety and security is one of the most important matters in the preparation of any major event," the Lausanne, Switzerland-based FIFA said in a statement before Valke's news conference in Haiti. "FIFA has full confidence in the Brazilian authorities and their developed security concept for both the FIFA Confederations Cup and FIFA World Cup which encapsulate any potential risks."
Although the federal government is in charge of providing security for both the June 15-30 Confederations Cup and the World Cup, Rio de Janeiro state personnel will also provide support, state officials said in a statement Tuesday. Rio state has already trained 833 officers to take part in the events, preparing them for situations such as terrorist attacks, bombings and chemical attacks. More than 4,500 are expected to be trained before the events.
Officials here have provided few concrete details about the mega-events security strategy, said Christopher Gaffney, a professor at Rio's Federal University. Not even the budget for security operations at the World Cup has been officially announced, though Brazilian news reports put it at around $900 million, mostly paid for by the federal government.
Gaffney said he anticipated the budget might be increased because of the Boston attack, to allow for police reinforcements at sensitive areas during the World Cup. An increase in the use of drones to provide surveillance might also result, he said. Brazil has already purchased four Israeli-made drones to help during the Confederations Cup.
Under current plans, armed military police officers would be responsible securing a perimeter around soccer stadiums, while FIFA would handle safety inside the venues, largely using private security guards equipped with non-lethal weapons.
"The main issue of concern up till now has been crowd control and also falsification of tickets," said Gaffney, who specializes in studying mega-events.
He said that would likely change in the wake of Boston. "I think the international federations might start asking questions about the concrete security plans here."
Ignacio Cano, a professor in the social sciences department at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said he doubted the Boston attack would have much of an effect on security planning in Brazil.
"Terrorism is always a factor in planning for any major event, but Brazil and the United States don't face the same level of risk. Brazil has never been a target of international terrorism, so I doubt that it will become a major factor here," Cano said.
He added that during the World Cup, security could be beefed up for qualifying teams from countries considered terrorist threat.
Officials in Rio de Janeiro have made major strides in reducing drug-related violence in recent years, largely thanks to the strategy of taking over hillside "favela" slums where criminal gangs long ruled. But last month's gang rape of an American student inside a public transit van has raised new questions about the city's preparedness to ensure the safety of the hundreds of thousands of people visiting for the World Cup and Olympics.
Last Sunday's shooting deaths of two fans on their way to an event at a World Cup stadium in northeastern Brazil has added to the jitters.
Rival supporters were suspected in the killings, which happened about three miles from the Arena Fonte Nova in the city of Fortaleza. The local organizing committee said that "work is being done by the police and the army in many areas of security," adding that "we are not concerned with that for the Confederations Cup."
Associated Press writer Jenny Barchfield reported this story in Rio and Tales Azzoni reported from Sao Paulo. AP writers Trenton Daniel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil, contributed to this report.