Meanwhile, parts from a mutilated body washed up on Copacabana Beach, where Olympic beach volleyball matches will be held. That unnerving incident came as crime continues to run rampant in the Brazilian city, while its financial situation, and that of the country in general, appears bleak.
Brazil is suffering from its worst recession in decades, even as it prepares to welcome hundreds of athletes and thousands of fans and family members from all over to the world to the Summer Games, which open Aug. 5. Around 85,000 police officers and soldiers are set to be deployed in Rio to maintain security, but civil forces are so cash-strapped that they have been forced to ask for daily supplies such as pens and toilet paper, let alone their wages, according to the Associated Press.
Budgets for almost all government agencies in Rio’s state have been sharply cut, with law enforcement no exception. Police helicopters aren’t flying, more than half of the force’s cars remain parked to save money on gas, and even some salary payments are being delayed.
The “Welcome to Hell” sign at the airport was part of a strike staged by police Monday, with protests in several parts of Rio, including on the steps of the state assembly. One banner held by officers there read (via the BBC), “The police’s priority is the people, the government’s priority is the Olympics.”
“How are people going to feel protected in a city without security?” Rio’s acting governor, Francisco Dornelles, told Brazil’s O Globo newspaper. “We can have a great Olympics, but if some steps aren’t taken, it can be a big failure.”
One resident of a tony Rio neighborhood told the AP that after her purse was stolen at a local bakery, she was unable to procure a police report. ” ‘We don’t have paper for the incident report. None of the printers are working,’ ” she claimed an officer said to her.
One of Brazil’s top security officials, however, took a more confident tone Wednesday. “We are absolutely sure of the quality of the operation we are assembling,” Andrei Rodrigues said (via the AP). “We already did it in the [FIFA] World Cup two years ago. This is no rhetoric. Rio does successful events every year; this will be no different.”
Reuters confirmed the story Wednesday about the body parts washing up on the beach, noting that it was first reported to a newspaper by a street vendor. The volleyball venue is still under construction there, as are several other Olympic facilities and infrastructure elements, such as a new subway line, as Brazil races to be ready for the Games.