SAO PAULO (Reuters) - (This 25 November 2015 story was refiled to correct the headline and first paragraph to clarify that visa waiver applies only to certain nations and to add details in paragraph 3, clarifies detail in paragraph 4))
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has agreed to suspend visa requirements for certain foreigners during the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s official gazette reported on Wednesday, despite heightened security fears after the Paris attacks.
The government hopes the move will encourage tourism and help revive Brazil’s sluggish economy, which is expected to stay in recession for a second year in 2016.
The government has yet to decide which countries will be covered by the waiver. Tourism Minister Henrique Alves has said it would apply only to citizens of nations that have hosted the Games and are not seen as presenting a security or immigration risk, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Foreigners covered by the waiver will be able to stay for up to 90 days without a visa if they arrive between June and Sept. 18, regardless of whether they have tickets to Olympic events, according to the bill signed into law by Rousseff and published in the gazette.
Diplomats in Brasilia say Western governments are worried about the safety of their athletes and tourists at the games because they believe many Brazilian authorities are complacent, taking too much comfort in Brazil’s historical status as an enemy-free nation.
Islamic State militants have stepped up international attacks in recent months. The group claimed responsibility for a coordinated assault in Paris on Nov. 13 in which 130 people were killed.
Cabinet Minister Ricardo Berzoini said on Monday that Brazil was seeking help from countries with a history of combating terrorism and the director of Brazil’s intelligence agency Abin said there is no sign of Islamic State or any other jihadist group in Brazil, the largest country in South America.
The Olympics will be held between Aug. 5 and 21 and the Paralympic Games follow from Sept. 7-18. Brazil was praised for pulling off a mostly incident-free World Cup in 2014, when only visitors with tickets to games were not required to have visas.
Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry