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Brazilian Army law and order experience in Rio, is tempting other states

Tuesday, February 20th 2018 - 09:48 UTC

The extraordinary move came after Rio’s governor asked for federal help following an exceptionally violent carnival season.
The extraordinary move came after Rio’s governor asked for federal help following an exceptionally violent carnival season.
Secretary-general Wellington Moreira Franco, a key Temer adviser, said what happens in Rio will hopefully spread throughout Brazil.
Secretary-general Wellington Moreira Franco, a key Temer adviser, said what happens in Rio will hopefully spread throughout Brazil.

Brazilian leaders said on Monday that the use of the military to combat rising violence in Rio de Janeiro could serve as a model for other violent areas of Brazil. The armed forces officially took over Rio’s police on Friday under a decree signed by president Michel Temer. The measure still requires congressional approval, and the lower house was to debate it late Monday.

The extraordinary move came after Rio’s governor asked for federal help following an exceptionally violent carnival season. During the holiday, there were several muggings, armed robberies and confrontations.

President Temer met with ministers and lawmakers to discuss the intervention.

“It’s important to understand that Rio de Janeiro is a laboratory,” institutional security minister Sergio Etchegoyen said after the meeting. “It’s the outward manifestation of a structural crisis.”

According to the Brazilian Forum of Public Security, Rio de Janeiro isn’t the most dangerous state in Brazil: in terms of violent intentional killings per 100,000 people, it ranked 11th in 2016. But Rio is in many ways Brazil’s face to the world and carries major weight within the country as home to much of its media and entertainment industries.

Secretary-general Wellington Moreira Franco, a key Temer adviser, said what happens in Rio will hopefully spread throughout Brazil.

“I believe that this is one more step along the road of being able to restore security, order and, above all, confidence to residents of Rio de Janeiro state,” Mr Franco said. “This spirit is being mobilized so that ... this conversation, this methodology can spread throughout Brazil.”

The security situation in Rio has been deteriorating for at least two years as the state experiences a deep fiscal crisis, often resulting in late or no payments to its police officers. The slide began just before the city hosted the 2016 Olympics, ahead of which it had ramped up policing. Those efforts, which focused on the hillside slums that are often controlled by drug traffickers, had some success.

But since the Games, battles among gangs and between gangs and the police have intensified. Major avenues are occasionally blocked for hours in shootouts and the number of people killed by stray bullets has risen dramatically.

But putting the military in charge also raises concerns about the heavy-handed tactics police have used. Amnesty International has already said that the decision to use soldiers would reinforce past mistakes by police. Rio is already the state with the most deaths during police operations.

Those concerns were fanned on Monday when defense minister Raul Jungmann said that the authorities would seek a broader kind of search warrant that, instead of specifying an address, might list an entire street or even neighborhood where a suspect is believed to be living.

President Temer and his ministers have gone to great lengths to emphasize that the president is ultimately in charge of the operation, providing civilian oversight of the military. That reflects deep unease in a society where many still remember the 1964-1985 military regime.

Unearthing Corbyn's past and contacts with Czech intelligence: “ridiculous smear”, says Labour

Tuesday, February 20th 2018 - 09:55 UTC

Asked about claims a Czech intelligence officer met and tried to recruit Mr Corbyn during the Cold War, PM May said MPs must “account” for past actions.
Asked about claims a Czech intelligence officer met and tried to recruit Mr Corbyn during the Cold War, PM May said MPs must “account” for past actions.
Jan Sarkocy told the Sun he met Mr Corbyn on several occasions, including in the House of Commons, while he was working undercover in the London Embassy
Jan Sarkocy told the Sun he met Mr Corbyn on several occasions, including in the House of Commons, while he was working undercover in the London Embassy
Czech officials say files show Corbyn was a “person of interest” but was never a secret collaborator or an informer.
Czech officials say files show Corbyn was a “person of interest” but was never a secret collaborator or an informer.

Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn should be “open and transparent” about his alleged contacts with a Communist spy during the 1980s, Theresa May has suggested. Asked about claims a Czech intelligence officer met and tried to recruit Mr Corbyn during the Cold War, she said MPs must “account” for past actions.

The Labour Party has said claims he was an agent were a “ridiculous smear”.

Czech officials say files show he was a “person of interest” but was never a secret collaborator or an informer. Files held by the Czech Security Service Archive, first reported by the Sun detail contacts Mr Corbyn is alleged to have had with a Czechoslovakian diplomat and agent in London in 1986 and 1987.

Jan Sarkocy told the newspaper he met Mr Corbyn on several occasions, including in the House of Commons, while he was working undercover in the London Embassy under the name of Jan Dymic.

At an event in Derby, the prime minister was asked whether she agreed with her defense secretary Gavin Williamson that Mr Corbyn's file - which reportedly gives insights into his character and views on foreign policy issues from the time - should now be released so people could make up their own mind about the claims.

“It is for individual members of Parliament to be accountable for their actions in the past,” she replied. “Where there are allegations of this sort, MPs should be prepared to be open and transparent.”

The director of the Czech Security Service Archive said that their files suggest Mr. Corbyn was seen as a possible “contact” but no more than that.

“Mr Corbyn was not a secret collaborator working for the Czechoslovak intelligence service,” Svetlana Ptacnikova said. “The files we have on him are kept in a folder that starts with the identification number one.

Secret collaborators were allocated folders that start with the number four. If he had been successfully recruited as an informer, then his person of interest file would have been closed, and a new one would have been opened, and that would have started with the number four.”

She added: “He stayed in that basic category - and in fact he's still described as that, as a person of interest, in the final report issued by the StB agent shortly before he [the agent] was expelled from the UK.”

Labour has acknowledged Mr Corbyn met Czechoslovakian and other diplomats “for a cup of tea” but said Mr Sarkocy's accounts of his meetings with him had “no credibility whatsoever”.

In a statement released when the Sun's initial report was published, Labour said “the claim that Jeremy Corbyn was an agent, asset or informer for any intelligence agency is entirely false and a ridiculous smear”.

“Jeremy neither has or offered any privileged information to this or any other diplomat,” it added.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said the leader had instructed lawyers to contact Conservative MP Ben Bradley over a tweet he said was libelous. “Jeremy has instructed solicitors to contact Ben Bradley to delete his libelous tweet or face legal action,” the spokesman said. The tweet, which claimed the Labour leader “sold British secrets to Communist spies”, has now been deleted.

Falklands' second commercial air link invitation delivered to Uruguay

Tuesday, February 20th 2018 - 07:14 UTC

 Argentine ambassador Mario Barletta, foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa and British Chargé d'affairs Rossa Commane at the letter delivery ceremony
Argentine ambassador Mario Barletta, foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa and British Chargé d'affairs Rossa Commane at the letter delivery ceremony

Representatives from Argentina and the United Kingdom formally delivered on Monday, to the Uruguayan foreign minister a letter jointly issued by the two governments requesting assistance in contacting local airlines and inviting them to communicate their interest in establishing a new weekly scheduled air service to and from the Falkland Islands.

 At the special audience minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa received Argentine ambassador Mario Barletta and British Chargé d'affairs Rossa Commane.

According to the delivered document the Uruguayan eligible airlines should communicate their interest simultaneously to the UK and Argentine embassies in Montevideo, no later than 28 February 2018.

The announcement follows the principles set out in the 14 July 1999 Argentina/UK Joint Statement and Exchange of Letters, later supported through the signing of the 2016 Joint Communiqué, between Britain and Argentina where it was agreed to make further progress in establishing additional air links between the Falkland Islands and third party countries.

Pluna was Uruguay's flag carrier but in 2012, under the administration of president José Mujica the company was definitively closed down, and a cooperative with some of the staff was re-launched with government financial support, but it also was dissolved. Other private airline attempts in Uruguay have so far failed.

 

Mexico presidential race down to three names: Lopez Obrador, Anaya and Meade

Monday, February 19th 2018 - 08:13 UTC

The candidate to beat is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO, a fiery leftist who has tried to present a mellower image this time around
The candidate to beat is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, AMLO, a fiery leftist who has tried to present a mellower image this time around
In second place is Ricardo Anaya of the conservative National Action Party, a youthful ex-lawmaker whose 'fresh face' has been hurt by allegations of corruption
In second place is Ricardo Anaya of the conservative National Action Party, a youthful ex-lawmaker whose 'fresh face' has been hurt by allegations of corruption

The campaign for Mexico's Jul 1 presidential election began in earnest on Sunday (Feb 18) as the country's top parties officially nominated their candidates, with all three front-runners trying to sell a message of change.

 It is still a wide-open race to succeed President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is deeply unpopular heading into the final stretch of his six-year term in a Mexico beset by endless corruption scandals and record levels of violent crime.

The candidate to beat is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO, a fiery leftist who has tried to present a mellower image this time around, and who has taken a growing lead in the polls.

In second place is Ricardo Anaya of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), a youthful ex-lawmaker whose bid to campaign as a fresh face has been hurt by allegations of corruption and strong-arming his way to his party's nomination.

Rounding out the top three is respected former finance minister Jose Antonio Meade, standing for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) - a long-dominant force in Mexican politics whose popularity is now so low it tapped a non-party member to be its presidential candidate for the first time in its history.

Lopez Obrador, a two-time presidential runner-up whose critics hate him as fervently as his supporters love him, promised sweeping change for Mexico as he accepted his Morena party's nomination.

He vowed to overhaul public health and education, end the privatization of state resources and improve life for the poor.

But - sensitive to critics' accusations of an authoritarian style - he vowed that “nothing will be imposed from above.”

“I'm aware of my historic responsibility. I want to be remembered as a good president,” he told cheering supporters in Mexico City, going for a presidential look in a dark suit and red tie. He vowed to be relentless fighting the graft festering in the Mexican political system.

“I'm stubborn. It's a well-known fact,” he said. “With that same conviction, I will act as president ... stubbornly, obstinately, persistently, bordering on craziness, to wipe out corruption.”

Anaya, 38, and Meade, 48, are fighting tooth and nail for the anti-AMLO vote, each hoping it will propel them to victory.

Both have struck sometimes awkward alliances with smaller parties.

Recent polls give Lopez Obrador just over 30% of the vote, with Anaya in the 20s and Meade in the teens - enough for Lopez Obrador to win in Mexico's first-past-the-post system.

He's the clear choice for change, a former Mexico City mayor famous for railing against the country's “mafia of power.” Encouraged by his strong numbers, Lopez Obrador, 64, has been trying to cultivate an aura of inevitability around his campaign.

Anaya will run in a landmark alliance with the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

“I'm not running for president of Mexico to keep on doing the same thing ... I want to be president so I can make sure the dramatic change that our country needs is achieved,” Anaya said after accepting his party's nod.

“The big question in this kind of election is what kind of change we want, change looking toward the future or trapped in the past,” he stressed.

Meade tried to sound upbeat as he accepted the PRI's nomination at its national convention - though two recent polls have him falling farther behind.

“We can win!” said the former finance minister, who is highly respected in business circles but is struggling under the baggage of the PRI - which has been hit by a string of corruption scandals that have landed seven of its ex-governors in jail.

“I'm doing it for Mexico and asking all of you to do it for Mexico as well,” he said.

Officially, the campaign does not open until March 30, but months of “pre-campaigning” have already laid bare Mexico's divisions.

“This election is about those people who are desperate for change in Mexico... and are willing to try anything different, and those people who are genuinely worried about what change will bring,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute in Washington.

The next president will inherit a lackluster economy, a political system rotting with corruption and a messy war on Mexico's powerful drug cartels that has left a trail of dead and missing in its wake.

Not to mention there's also difficult ties with the administration of US President Donald Trump, whose attacks on Mexico have put the future of the country's most crucial trade relationship in doubt.

 

Italian election with no clear winner: Berlusconi's coalition ahead with 37.2% support

Monday, February 19th 2018 - 09:09 UTC

YouTrend puts Berlusconi’s alliance comfortably ahead with 37.2% support, although insufficient for a parliamentary majority.
YouTrend puts Berlusconi’s alliance comfortably ahead with 37.2% support, although insufficient for a parliamentary majority.
The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) had support of around 27.8%, making it the leading single party but it has refused to discuss joining a coalition.
The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) had support of around 27.8%, making it the leading single party but it has refused to discuss joining a coalition.

The coalition, which includes former prime minister’s Forza Italia (Go Italy) Silvio Berlusconi and two far-right parties, is being seen within the context of Europe’s lurch away from conventional parties ahead of the March 4 vote.

A new electoral law and millions of disaffected voters combine to make it one of the country’s most unpredictable votes in years. Under electoral reforms, 63% of seats are assigned using a proportional-voting system, with the remaining 37% of the parliament to be elected directly under a first-past-the-post system. The election is thought to be decided by direct votes, especially seats in the south.

“Those highly uncertain constituencies in the south are disputed between the centre right and the Five Stars,” said Lorenzo Pregliasco of pollster YouTrend. “The chances of Berlusconi’s coalition winning an absolute majority all reside there.”

YouTrend puts Berlusconi’s alliance comfortably ahead with 37.2% support, although insufficient for a parliamentary majority. The populist Forza Italia had 16.8% backing, the anti-immigration Northern League 13.2% support and the far-right Fratelli d’Italia (Italian Brothers) was at 4.7%.

Polling has called almost every European vote wrong since the UK election of 2015, meaning the data is actively misleading when contemplating possible outcomes.

Berlusconi, 81, is barred from office by tax fraud conviction.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) had support of around 27.8%, making it the leading single party but it has refused to discuss joining a coalition. A left-of-centre coalition, including the ruling Democratic Party, is predicted to come third with 27.4% of the vote.

“It would take a magician to predict today what will happen in 15 days,” said pollster Antonio Noto. “Ten million voters have still not decided whether or not to vote and who they would vote for.”

In 2013 general election, Five Star was polling at 20% but won 25% of votes.

“Seven per cent of the people who went to vote [in 2013] changed their minds in the polling booth and voted for a party other than the one they originally thought they were voting for,” said Noto.

President Sergio Mattarella has the power to keep the current government in power until a working administration can be formed.

Mass shooting survivors planning to march “for our lives” in Washington on 24 March

Monday, February 19th 2018 - 09:21 UTC

The “March for our Lives” will take place on Mar 24, with sister rallies planned across the country, a group of students revealed.
The “March for our Lives” will take place on Mar 24, with sister rallies planned across the country, a group of students revealed.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, a troubled ex student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed to killing 17 people with a legally-purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle
Nikolas Cruz, 19, a troubled ex student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed to killing 17 people with a legally-purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle

Students who survived a mass shooting at their Florida school on Sunday (Feb 18) announced plans to march on Washington in a bid to “shame” politicians into reforming laws that make firearms readily available. The “March for our Lives” will take place on Mar 24, with sister rallies planned across the country, a group of students revealed.

They pledged to make Wednesday's slaughter in Parkland, Florida a turning point in America's deadlocked debate on gun control.


Nikolas Cruz, 19, a troubled former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed to killing 17 people with a legally-purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the latest such atrocity in a country with more than 30,000 gun-related deaths annually.


Among the students announcing the march was Emma Gonzalez, who captured worldwide attention with a powerful speech in which she assailed President Donald Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby.

She vowed Stoneman Douglas would be “the last mass shooting.”


On Sunday, Gonzalez, 18, urged politicians to join a conversation about gun control - citing Trump as well as his fellow Republicans Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott.


“We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this,” she said, as she and her four classmates called on students nationwide to help push the message.


Trump will host a “listening session” with high school students and teachers on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement, though it did not specify who would attend the event.


Singling out the links between politicians and the powerful National Rifle Association, fellow student Cameron Kasky said any politician “who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this.”


“This isn't about the GOP,” he said, referring to the Republican Party. “This isn't about the Democrats.”


The NRA, a traditional ally of the Republicans who currently control Congress and the White House, defends a literal view of the US Constitution's 2nd Amendment which promises a right “to keep and bear arms.”


Even after last October's killing of 58 people by a gunman in Las Vegas who amassed 47 firearms to commit the worst mass shooting in recent US history, legislators accomplished nothing in the way of tighter controls.


Accusing the NRA of “fostering and promoting this gun culture,” Kasky said the students seek “a new normal where there's a badge of shame on any politician who's accepting money from the NRA.”


“People keep asking us, what about the Stoneman Douglas shooting is going to be different, because this has happened before and change hasn't come?” said Kasky.


“This is it,” he continued. “We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives.”


The students did not indicate how many people they expected to join their rallies. But their aims won support from Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch, who said they can make a difference.


Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, speaking on the same program, said he is working towards bipartisan solutions that could prevent similar tragedies.


“There are a lot of Republicans who are prepared to support reasonable, common-sense gun safety laws,” he said.


Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said that although Republicans have faced a bigger hurdle in making gun control a priority, “it's been a challenge in the Democratic Party as well.”


He said on “Fox News Sunday” that the student activists “are going to vote on this issue probably for the rest of their lives and they're going to encourage others to do that as well.”

US scientists discover new family of antibiotics that combat drug resistant diseases

Monday, February 19th 2018 - 08:59 UTC

Drug-resistant diseases are one of the biggest threats to global health. They kill around 700,000 people a year, and new treatments are urgently needed.
Drug-resistant diseases are one of the biggest threats to global health. They kill around 700,000 people a year, and new treatments are urgently needed.

US scientists have discovered a new family of antibiotics in soil samples. The natural compounds could be used to combat hard-to-treat infections, the team at Rockefeller University hopes.

Tests show the compounds, called malacidins, annihilate several bacterial diseases that have become resistant to most existing antibiotics, including the superbug MRSA. Experts say the work, published in Nature Microbiology, offers fresh hope in the antibiotics arms race.

Drug-resistant diseases are one of the biggest threats to global health. They kill around 700,000 people a year, and new treatments are urgently needed.

Soil is teeming with millions of different micro-organisms that produce lots of potentially therapeutic compounds, including new antibiotics.

Dr Sean Brady's team at New York's Rockefeller University has been busy unearthing them. They used a gene sequencing technique to analyze more than 1,000 soil samples taken from across the US.

When they discovered malacidins in many of the samples, they had a hunch it was an important find. They tested the compound on rats that they had given MRSA and it eliminated the infection in skin wounds. The researchers are now working to improve the drug's effectiveness in the hope that it can be developed into a real treatment for people.

Dr Brady said: “It is impossible to say when, or even if, an early stage antibiotic discovery like the malacidins will proceed to the clinic. It is a long, arduous road from the initial discovery of an antibiotic to a clinically used entity.”

Prof Colin Garner, from Antibiotic Research UK, said finding new antibiotics to treat gram-positive infections like MRSA was good news, but would not address the most pressing need.

“Our concern are the so called gram-negative bacteria which are difficult to treat and where resistance is on the increase,” he said.

“Gram-negative bacteria cause pneumonia, blood and urinary tract infections as skin infections. We need new antibiotics to treat this class.”

Temer announces the creation of a public security ministry

Monday, February 19th 2018 - 09:25 UTC

“From next week or the next, I want to create a ministry of public security to co-ordinate all efforts,” said Temer after leaving a meeting in Rio
“From next week or the next, I want to create a ministry of public security to co-ordinate all efforts,” said Temer after leaving a meeting in Rio
Army patrols were already used in Rio’s gang-ruled favelas, but a decree signed on Friday by Temer now gives the military overall control of security operations in Rio
Army patrols were already used in Rio’s gang-ruled favelas, but a decree signed on Friday by Temer now gives the military overall control of security operations in Rio

Brazilian President Michel Temer has announced the creation of a public security ministry after giving the military full control over security in crime-plagued Rio de Janeiro. Temer came to the city to meet Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao, several ministers and General Walter Souza Braga Netto, who will lead the operation and who was in charge of coordinating security when the city hosted the 2016 Olympic Games.

“From next week or the next, I want to create a ministry of public security to co-ordinate all efforts,” said Temer after leaving the meeting. The new ministry would have a similar portfolio to the interior ministry.

Army patrols were already used in Rio’s gang-ruled favelas, but a decree signed on Friday by Temer now gives the military overall control of security operations in Rio state, which the president said had been virtually seized by organized crime gangs.

Brazilian police are normally under state supervision.

Temer’s order for “federal intervention” places command in Netto, who will report directly to the president and not to authorities in Rio, the country’s second most populous state with around 16mn inhabitants - 6.5mn of them living in Rio de Janeiro. The decree is already in force but must still be validated by Congress.

The army’s mission will last until the end of Temer’s term as president on December 31.

Temer said he was taking “extreme measures” in the face of organized crime which has spread throughout the country “and threatens the tranquility of our people.”

Officials cited, in particular, violence during this month’s carnival but David Fleischer, a professor of political science at the University of Brasilia, said other factors also came into play.

Fleischer said Temer is desperately “trying to distract” attention from corruption allegations that have embroiled his presidency, as well as his struggles to adopt pension reform. Arthur Trindade, a university professor and former security secretary for Brasilia, said the main objective of the decree is to “clean up” a police force undermined by corruption.

Eight months before a presidential election, the leftist opposition is wary of military intervention in a country still marked by two decades of military dictatorship which ended in 1985.

“The situation in Rio is serious but it is necessary to be vigilant that these measures are not accompanied by the repression of social movements and the suspension of constitutional rights,” said Gleisi Hoffman, president of the Workers’ Party of former president Lula da Silva.

More than 8,000 troops were sent to Rio de Janeiro in July to help the overstretched police but results were insignificant. Rio state has been badly hit by Brazil’s recession and a slump in the oil market, as well as by massive corruption.

Peru and Australia sign trade deal, which opens market for Aussie farm produce

Monday, February 19th 2018 - 08:53 UTC

“Australia and Peru have the same view on how to develop our economy and we both believe that trade is an important tool to move forward,” Ferreyros said.
“Australia and Peru have the same view on how to develop our economy and we both believe that trade is an important tool to move forward,” Ferreyros said.
Supermarkets in Peru are already asking about stocking Aussie beef and dairy produce, Mr Ciobo said
Supermarkets in Peru are already asking about stocking Aussie beef and dairy produce, Mr Ciobo said

Australia and Peru have signed a new trade deal that is expected to lead to more local products - including beef, sugar, almonds and dairy - being sold in nation which is a full member of the Pacific Alliance.

Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo and his Peruvian counterpart Eduardo Ferreyros, signed the pact in Canberra after it was finalized last November.

“Australia and Peru have the same view on how to develop our economy and we both believe that trade is an important tool to move forward,” Ferreyros said.

“We also agree that the regional economic integration of the Asia Pacific region is very important and we are working together to move that agenda forward.”

The agreement will give Australian farmers preferential access to the fast-growing Peruvian economy for the first time, with 99% of tariffs that Australian exporters face into Peru eliminated.

Supermarkets in Peru are already asking about stocking Aussie beef, Mr Ciobo told AAP, while the access for sugar farmers was more than any other country had achieved over the past two decades.

The deal is also good news for services exports, especially education with Peru agreeing to recognize Australian degrees.

“As Peru's economy grows, so will their need for services,” Mr Ciobo said.

“Australia's service providers are now perfectly placed to meet this demand as we've secured the best services commitments Peru has ever offered.”

The agreement will now go to a committee, which will undertake a public inquiry before delivering a report back to parliament with further recommendations.

“I hear from time to time these completely false allegations made that these trade deals are done in secret,” Mr Ciobo told reporters at the signing. “We're about to go through the process that highlights that that is complete rubbish.”

Temer announces the creation of a public security ministry

Monday, February 19th 2018 - 09:25 UTC

“From next week or the next, I want to create a ministry of public security to co-ordinate all efforts,” said Temer after leaving a meeting in Rio
“From next week or the next, I want to create a ministry of public security to co-ordinate all efforts,” said Temer after leaving a meeting in Rio
Army patrols were already used in Rio’s gang-ruled favelas, but a decree signed on Friday by Temer now gives the military overall control of security operations in Rio
Army patrols were already used in Rio’s gang-ruled favelas, but a decree signed on Friday by Temer now gives the military overall control of security operations in Rio

Brazilian President Michel Temer has announced the creation of a public security ministry after giving the military full control over security in crime-plagued Rio de Janeiro. Temer came to the city to meet Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao, several ministers and General Walter Souza Braga Netto, who will lead the operation and who was in charge of coordinating security when the city hosted the 2016 Olympic Games.

“From next week or the next, I want to create a ministry of public security to co-ordinate all efforts,” said Temer after leaving the meeting. The new ministry would have a similar portfolio to the interior ministry.

Army patrols were already used in Rio’s gang-ruled favelas, but a decree signed on Friday by Temer now gives the military overall control of security operations in Rio state, which the president said had been virtually seized by organized crime gangs.

Brazilian police are normally under state supervision.

Temer’s order for “federal intervention” places command in Netto, who will report directly to the president and not to authorities in Rio, the country’s second most populous state with around 16mn inhabitants - 6.5mn of them living in Rio de Janeiro. The decree is already in force but must still be validated by Congress.

The army’s mission will last until the end of Temer’s term as president on December 31.

Temer said he was taking “extreme measures” in the face of organized crime which has spread throughout the country “and threatens the tranquility of our people.”

Officials cited, in particular, violence during this month’s carnival but David Fleischer, a professor of political science at the University of Brasilia, said other factors also came into play.

Fleischer said Temer is desperately “trying to distract” attention from corruption allegations that have embroiled his presidency, as well as his struggles to adopt pension reform. Arthur Trindade, a university professor and former security secretary for Brasilia, said the main objective of the decree is to “clean up” a police force undermined by corruption.

Eight months before a presidential election, the leftist opposition is wary of military intervention in a country still marked by two decades of military dictatorship which ended in 1985.

“The situation in Rio is serious but it is necessary to be vigilant that these measures are not accompanied by the repression of social movements and the suspension of constitutional rights,” said Gleisi Hoffman, president of the Workers’ Party of former president Lula da Silva.

More than 8,000 troops were sent to Rio de Janeiro in July to help the overstretched police but results were insignificant. Rio state has been badly hit by Brazil’s recession and a slump in the oil market, as well as by massive corruption.