Brazil trims anti-violence program due to budget woes

AP News
Posted: Mar 22, 2016 5:58 PM
Brazil trims anti-violence program due to budget woes

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil's economic woes are forcing officials in Rio de Janeiro to cut back at least one anti-violence program ahead of the Olympic Games in August.

Public Safety Department head Jose Mariano Beltrame told state legislators Monday that his department's budget has been cut 32 percent.

That means there's not enough money to expand police "pacification" units in the violence-wracked Mare complex of 15 shantytowns near Rio's international airport. The units were to have been completed before the start of the Olympics.

The program is aimed at pushing out drug trafficking gangs that ruled the slums for decades.

The U.S. consulate in Rio said Tuesday that it has changed its policy regarding visits by its staff to the city's shantytowns.

"U.S. government personnel must now obtain permission from the consulate's security office before traveling to pacified areas," it said in a security message for U.S. citizens. Visits to non-pacified slums are prohibited.

The consulate said the police pacification program succeeded in bringing "some measure of community policing."

But despite the police presence, "criminal elements are present in many neighborhoods and gunfire can take place without warning," the consulate said, adding that "U.S. residents and visitors in Rio de Janeiro who visit pacified favelas could be placing themselves at risk."

In a separate development, the Rio de Paz anti-violence group said its new music education center in the Jacarezinho slum was hit by some 40 shots fired from heavy caliber weapons on Monday.

The building was empty at the time and no one was hurt.