Brazil boosts SWC security

SWC 2014 (File)
SWC 2014 (File)

Florianopolis - Brazil has dramatically increased its Soccer World Cup security operation, drafting in tens of thousands of additional personnel as it aims to prevent the tournament being disrupted by violent protests, officials said Thursday.

Andrei Rodrigues, Brazil's national secretary for major events, told a FIFA seminar in Florianopolis that 150 000 public security personnel would be deployed for the World Cup.

Rodrigues had told reporters on February 6 that around 100 000 security personnel would be on duty during the tournament.

In addition, Rodrigues said Thursday some 20 000 private security professionals would also be used during the event.

Brazil is anxious to avoid a repeat of the scenes which rocked last year's Confederations Cup, when large scale protests over poor public services and the multi-billion-dollar cost of hosting the World Cup and 2016 Olympics dominated the headlines.

Violent protests in Rio de Janeiro earlier this month which left a television cameraman dead renewed concerns about the possibility of demonstrations at the World Cup.

"Our concern is to prevent violence and combat vandalism," Rodrigues said on Thursday.

Demonstrations would be allowed provided they were peaceful, he added.

"We guarantee the freedom of peaceful protests, which are a legitimate exercise in a democracy," Rodrigues said.

FIFA director of security Ralf Mutschke indicated he was confident in Brazil's ability to host a safe tournament.

"We are convinced a safe World Cup will be delivered in Brazil," Mutschke told a news conference.

"The teams have great faith in the level of security going to be provided," Mutschke added, as a two-day logistics workshop attended by the coaches of 25 of the 32 competing teams ended.

Thursday's security meeting in the southern city of Florianopolis saw defense and justice ministry officials join FIFA's security spokesman to lay out the parameters of the event's "security matrix."

Mindful of how authorities were caught out by protests that drew more than a million people during last June's Confederations Cup warm-up event, Brazil will deploy the army to counter major disruption.

President Dilma Rousseff said Wednesday troops would be mobilized "if necessary" to ensure fan security at the June 12-July 13 World Cup.

"Armed forces shall be called on if needed to guarantee law and order," said army General Jamil Meyid Junior.

The general added the state-of-the-art system would be fully operational by May 21.

Rodrigues admitted to concerns over potential violence and said the host nation was committed to preventing it, though he offered "dialogue" with protesters.

Brazil has earmarked around $800 million for security operations in an operation which will see a national command center oversee a dozen regional centers at the venues.

Rodrigues said the budget had been set in 2011 and any adjustment would be "small."

Given the protests, Brazil is at pains to offer transparency on Cup-related public spending.

However, that has had a negative side effect with the northern city of Recife cancelling its planned fan-festival citing a need to cut costs.

FIFA's General Secretary Jerome Valcke had earlier indicated some 'Fan-Fests,' where ticketless supporters can congregate and watch games on giant screens, might be moved if security concerns warranted it.

Valcke earlier this week criticized Recife after it became the first of the 12 host cities to drop its Fan Fest.

World Cup-themed enertainment events may still go ahead in the city if private firms stump up the cost in the region of $5 million, reined in from an initial estimate of almost double that.

The festivals have drawn the ire of some local vendors in Brazil who have complained only official World Cup sponsors can sell merchandise in Fan Fest areas.

Mutschke said as well as security, organisers had addressed the topic of match-fixing.

He said FIFA has in coordination with Interpol "adopted zero tolerance" match-rigging and set in place an "early warning system" to flag irregular betting patterns.

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