Brazil beefs up Olympic security after Nice attack
By DOM PHILLIPS | The Washington Post | Published: July 16, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil is revising its security for next month's Summer Olympic Games in the wake of the attack in Nice, France, that killed 84 people, officials said as they carried out the latest in a series of counterterrorism exercises.
This country, which has never suffered a terrorist attack, will host up to half a million tourists for South America's first Olympic Games, which start in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5.
Extra measures will be imposed including intensified searches, increased security on streets, restrictions on traffic on some routes, and an increased safety cordon around some venues, ministers said, without providing details.
The city had already planned to deploy 85,000 police, military and members of a Brazil-style national guard called the National Force on Rio's streets. But the scale of the carnage caused by the truck used in the Nice attack prompted Brazil to re-evaluate its security measures.
"The level of concern rose," said Defense Minister Raul Jungmann. "Instruments of security and control were increased."
Jungmann landed at Rio's international airport on Friday with 200 military personnel trained in biological warfare and responding to terrorism attacks. He told reporters at the airport that Brazil had a database of 500,000 people suspected of some association with terrorism, compiled with the help of the United States and France.
Spectators at the Games will be checked against this database when they enter arenas, Jungmann said.
"Anyone wanting to watch the Olympic Games will have to go through a barrier where they identify themselves, and their details are checked," he said. "This person will then pass through a second barrier where everything they are bringing with them will be scanned."
A "third barrier" will involve an area in which 8,000 to 10,000 plainclothes security agents mingling with spectators will try to identify anyone acting suspiciously.
"Obviously, we sent people to France to have additional information on what happened and why it happened," he said.
On Friday, Gen. Sérgio Etchegoyen, Brazil's minister of institutional security, met with interim president Michel Temer and announced a full review of Brazil's security measures for the Olympics.
"Who in France imagined that a truck could become the weapon it became?" Etchegoyen asked reporters after the meeting, referring to how the vehicle careened through dense crowds at a fireworks celebration, killing dozens. "It would be a monumental irresponsibility if we did not review what we are doing."
The government is eager to reassure visitors and athletes that Rio's Olympics will be safe.
Terrorism is the latest worry, in addition to the Zika epidemic, rising violent crime, a financial crisis in the Rio state government, and protests from disgruntled police and National Force members.
To complicate things, most government ministers only started their jobs in May, after President Dilma Rousseff was suspended for an impeachment trial and her vice president, Temer, took over.
"There will be much more security," Temer told the TV Globo network in an interview Friday.
"We are very prepared."
On Saturday, a combined force of 500 military, air force, police and medical personnel staged a counterterrorism exercise at a train station near the Deodoro Olympic hub, in the western part of Rio.
Two black-clad police officers played terrorists, exploding a small bomb and taking train company staff "hostage."
Later, counterterrorism troops descended a rope from a helicopter - but this, an announcer explained, was a decoy to distract the attackers from another group of soldiers who entered the train and disabled the terrorists.
The exercise was planned months ago, but the Nice attack increased concern, said one of the officers involved. "The plans are being improved," he said.