Can Rio police come through, in an age of black swans?

In the offing for 2016: threats of terrorism, water and power shortages, extreme heat and the vagaries of mega-events


Rio’s longest-serving state Public Safety Secretary, José Mariano Beltrame, in the crisis room yesterday with foreign journalists 

Asked what he’s learned from Rio’s many mega-events over the last seven years, Rio’s security czar first mentioned fine-tuned agency integration, planning, clear information and the ability to foresee developments.

Then Beltrame spoke of Pope Francis. His July 2013 visit took place amid street demonstrations, rain, mud, a huge metro glitch and a last-minute switch in venue for an enormous outdoor mass. “You need to work with people who can be flexible,” said Beltrame. “We would have everything all planned and then the next day it was all different.”

Brazilians are generally quite flexible, as many foreigners have been dismayed to discover. But how do you use both planning and flexibility to your advantage, when extreme unexpected events unfold? Black swans seem to be becoming a kind of norm, here and elsewhere.


The data wall at Rio’s Integrated Control and Command Center

Beltrame said he’d expected the first question from foreign journalists to be about terrorism and the Olympic Games. Though Brazil so far has been fairly safe territory in this regard, the Paris attacks brought home the awful possibility that world conflict could play out here. Nevertheless, Beltrame indicated that Brasília has so far changed none of its ongoing preparation. The threat of terrorism was already a priority, he said, but the Rio state government answers to the Defense Ministry, the Federal Police and Abin, the national intelligence agency.

For Olympic security, Rio will depend not only on its own police forces of 63,285 men and women, but will also call on Federal Police, Federal Highway Police (responsible for the Red and Yellow highway Lines and Avenida Brasil), Army, Navy and Air Force troops, the Municipal Guard, the CET traffic police, and state firemen.


Good news: drop in homicide rate in the Beltrame years

RioRealblog asked Beltrame about another black swan: the now-chronic water shortage in much of the country, which could affect the power supply this summer. Though he shrugged off the possibility that a lack of water could spark violence requiring police response (“Aren’t the dams all right now?” he asked, actually referring to reservoirs, his mind perhaps distracted by another horrific dark-feathered avian, the Nov. 5 burst mining residue dam in the state of Minas Gerais which has brought death to the Doce River and environs), that particular swan is more grey than black. The shortage began in 2013, was ignored nationally and locally during the electoral season of 2014 and no, Rio’s reservoirs are not all right. Their status appears in the far right-hand column of the O Globo newspaper home page site, and can be found in great detail here.

Beltrame said that water and power are the concerns of city officials and the state water concession, Cedae, but added that the issue may come up in a future meeting with city and state officials, held every two weeks.

He’s got plenty on his hands without imagined or unimagined crises, in the runup to the Olympic Games. As Rio state struggles to meet payrolls with shrinking tax and oil royalty revenue, apparently one third of our police force is psychologically unstable — and with not nearly enough of a mental health safety net.

Read O Globo‘s report on the press conference here.

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Can Rio police come through, in an age of black swans?

  1. Renata avila says:

    Adorei o conteúdo. 🙂

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