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10:03, 06 May 2014 Tuesday

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Violence forces early start to Rio World Cup security
Violence forces early start to Rio World Cup security

A World Cup security plan for Rio de Janeiro, which swells the number of police patrolling the city's streets to 2,000, has been brought forward after a spike in violence.

World Bulletin / News Desk

Security arrangements planned for the World Cup which set out to boost the number of military police patrolling the streets of the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro have been implemented ahead of schedule, as levels of violence in the city continue to rise.

Some 2,000 military police will patrol the city's streets from Monday, Rio's Secretary of Public Security told the Anadolu Agency, but declined to elaborate as to where police efforts would be focused.

The plan was meant to be brought in for the World Cup but has been implemented early due to the increased violent crime and to give police time to create the necessary deterrent ahead of the influx of visitors.

Rio is hosting seven fixtures of the key football tournament, which begins in just 38 days' time, including the final in the city's famous Maracanã stadium. Some 600,000 foreign visitors are expected to descend on Brazil for the event.

Rio Secretary of Public Security José Beltrame told reporters Monday that a gradual increase in crime had been witnessed since the end of 2013 and that the police presence in the city was being ramped up to deter criminals.

"I'm putting practically all the police on the streets, bringing forward what I was going to do at the World Cup as a police deterrent,” Beltrame was quoted as saying by news website UOL. “The step we're now taking is about reducing our crime hotspots."

'Soaring levels of violence'

The news is coincident with new figures from Rio's local Institution of Public Security, which showed murders were up 23.6 percent in March year-over-year, with 508 cases.

The institute's findings also showed that robberies targeting restaurants and other businesses had increased 85 percent in the first three months of 2014, and that street muggings were up 43 percent.

The figures suggest crime has returned to levels seen in 2008, when the state began implementing its policy of pacification, forcibly retaking shantytowns controlled by drug-trafficking criminals.

Rio photographer Nicson Olivier told the Anadolu Agency that more police could be seen in Rio's South Zone, home to the upmarket neighborhoods most popular with tourists:

“There has been a noticeable increase in police numbers in Leblon, Ipanema and Copabacana today since the morning,” he told the Anadolu Agency.

Residents in other areas of Rio told AA they had yet to see evidence of the increase, and local media reports that many residents in Rio remain skeptical at the news of more police on the streets.

Bigger issues

Stone Korshak, editor of The Rio Times news outlet, lives in Ipanema and said street crime in the area had soared in the last six months and that several of his acquaintances had been robbed at gun- or knifepoint in the neighborhood, which was previously considered relatively safe:

“The more police on the streets the better, as long as they are well-trained and deterring crime,” he told AA. “But long term Rio has to deal with the crippling poverty that keeps over a fifth of the population living in favelas without decent education, job training and livable wages.”

Trust between local residents and police officers is minimal, correspondents say, and has taken a further hit recently after high-profile cases of alleged police abuse.

They include: murdered dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira; housewife Cláudia da Silva Ferreira, who was dragged dying behind a police car; and most notably that of bricklayer Amarildo Dias de Souza whose disappearance in 2013 sparked violent protests.

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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.