Rio could be ‘laboratory’ for solving Brazil’s crime crisis

SAO PAULO — Brazilian leaders said 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 scheduled to debate it Monday evening. But an opposition party asked the Supreme Court to suspend the vote before the session got under way, saying Temer had not followed the rules for issuing such a decree and saying the move had “political and electoral motivations.” It was not immediately clear if that would affect the planned debate.

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

Temer met Monday 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,” 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.

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