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Brazil Works to Clamp Down on Drug Violence Ahead of Olympics

BY Larisa Epatko  October 21, 2009 at 5:30 PM EDT

Celebrating Rio's Olympic bid win on Oct. 2. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Brazilians learned on Oct. 2 that their coastal city had bested Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo to host the Games, and thousands of people crowded Rio’s beaches to celebrate.

The International Olympic Committee’s granting of Rio’s $14 billion bid was viewed by many as a validation of how far Brazil had come, although security issues soon emerged in the discourse.

On Saturday, suspected drug traffickers shot down a police helicopter and set five buses ablaze in Rio’s Morro dos Macacos, or “Monkey Hill” slum, which is about five miles southwest of one of the areas where Olympic events will be held, reported the Associated Press.

More than 30 people, including civilians caught in the crossfire, have died since Saturday’s violence.

Seth Kugel, GlobalPost’s Brazil correspondent, describes what he found during his reporting:

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has since promised to channel $60 million to Rio to help police fight drug gangs, and officials vowed that the violence would not hamper their ability to host the Games.

Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes acknowledged Monday that the city of 6 million has security issues. “We still have a lot to do, we have a long way to go and what happened this weekend showed that,” he said, quoted the Wall Street Journal. “We are sure by 2016 we will deliver the Games and hopefully in a way that the city will be more peaceful and secure for all our citizens.”