3,000 troops fan out in Rio high-risk areas ahead of polls

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2012, 9:57am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 October, 2012, 9:59am

Some 3,000 soldiers and marines were deployed on Monday to tighten security in high-risk areas of Rio ahead of upcoming municipal elections, authorities said.

“The objective is to show the army’s support for the Regional Electoral Court so that people can vote peacefully”, without pressure from the narcotraffickers or militias that back some of the candidates, court chief Luiz Zveiter told reporters.

Nearly 140 million Brazilians are registered to cast ballots in the first round of nationwide municipal elections on Sunday, with a second round scheduled for October 28.

Officials said marines were tasked with patrolling the 17 northern ‘favelas’, or shantytowns, making up the Complexo da Mare located near Rio’s international airport.

Unlike many other favelas, where since 2008 security forces have wrested control from drug traffickers ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympics, the Complexo da Mare is still under the sway of several rival drug gangs.

Army troops were meanwhile deployed in some parts of the western zones controlled by militias made up of corrupt police officers.

“We are taking preventive measures against ballot stuffing and illicit electoral propaganda. Cell phones will be banned in the polling booth. It will not be possible for a narcotrafficker or a militiaman to ask a voter to photograph his ballot paper,” Zveiter said.

Sunday army personnel will boost security in seven other cities in Rio de Janeiro state.

“There will be a massive presence in specific areas to make sure the polls are conducted without incident,” Defence Minister Celso Amorim said on Friday.

In Rio, incumbent Mayor Eduardo Paes is favoured to win re-election, with opinion polls giving him 55 per cent support. Victory would mean he would remain at the helm to oversee the 2016 summer Olympics.