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World

Clashes Rage in Rio as Police try to Capture Drug Trafficker 

The alleged drug trafficker escaped while in custody at a hospital

Employees outside of the emergency room at Souza Aguiar Hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Sunday, June 19, 2016, photo: AP/Silvia Izquierdo
1 year ago

 

RIO DE JANEIRO — Police attempts to recapture a drug trafficker who escaped from a Brazilian hospital have led to more than a week of deadly gunbattles in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, which is hosting the Olympics in August.

Ten people have been killed and about 50 schools have been shuttered over the past nine days, the newspaper O Globo reported Wednesday. Police would not confirm the death toll, but said they had deployed 27 battalions of military police to various areas, including Rio’s downtown and its touristy southern area.

Nicolas Labre Pereira, nicknamed “Fat Family,” escaped June 19 when assailants stormed one of the hospitals recommended for tourists traveling to the Olympic Games. The raid to free the 28-year-old suspect left a patient dead and a nurse and an off-duty policeman wounded.

The violence is adding to worries about safety in Rio during the Olympics. Officials have warned that budget shortfalls may compromise security during the games.

On Wednesday, police officers near the Olympic beach volleyball venue in Copacabana told The Associated Press that a foot and other body parts had been found and covered in black plastic. The officers said the parts had washed up from the sea, with had no further details to offer.

Other violence is also causing concern. Last weekend, an off-duty bodyguard for Rio’s mayor was shot to death in an apparent mugging and a doctor was slain in her car on a main expressway. Earlier this month, members of the Australian Paralympic team were mugged at gunpoint.

An estimated 85,000 police officers and soldiers will be patrolling the streets during the Olympics and Paralympics, but Rio de Janeiro state’s acting governor says the state is still waiting for 2.9 billion Brazilian reals ($860 million) from the federal government that is earmarked for security efforts.

“The financial aspect is the big problem of Rio’s public safety strategy,” said Andrei Rodrigues, a top security official at the Justice Ministry who is responsible for big events.

Killings in Rio increased to 2,036 in the first four months of the year, compared to 1,818 for the same period in 2015, according to a state tally that counts homicides, officer-involved killings and deaths as a result of robberies.

ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON

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