Brazil, after Europe attacks, raises guard against Olympic terror

Wed Jun 1, 2016 11:02am EDT
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil is raising its guard and tightening security ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels and a threat by an alleged Islamic State militant.

"A bell went off in terms of terrorism," Admiral Ademir Sobrinho, the chairman of Brazil's joint chiefs of staff told Reuters, adding that Brazil has ramped up cooperation with foreign governments to prevent possible attacks from radical groups such as Islamic State or from a lone wolf.

With the Olympics set to start Aug. 5 and Rio expecting as many as 600,000 foreign visitors, Brazil is sharing intelligence, conducting security drills and setting up joint facilities.

In addition to a police hub where officers from over 50 countries will help monitor security at the Games, Brazil will also operate an anti-terrorism center with experts from nations including the United States, Britain, France and Spain.

"We'll have people there from around the world to better share information and advise one another on their respective areas of expertise," says Andrei Rodrigues, a police inspector who heads a special secretariat the federal government established for security during big events.

It is not that Brazil wasn't preparing for terrorism before. But after years of hosting big events, like giant annual Carnival celebrations and the soccer World Cup in 2014, security officials didn't consider it the biggest concern.

With no political enemies, no recent history of war and no evidence of homegrown militants to threaten it, Brazil focused mostly on the street crime and violence that are everyday problems here.

Even at the World Cup, which was held successfully in 12 different cities, the biggest fear was a rekindling of mass protests that erupted across Brazil a year earlier because of corruption and a slowing economy.   Continued...

Brazilian Army soldiers take part in a simulation of decontamination of multiple victims during a training against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics in X-Park at Deodoro Sports Complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes