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Brazil military boosting security for papal visit

13 july 2013, 19:06
The Brazilian military decided to boost security above its original plans for Pope Francis' visit during a major Catholic youth fest late this month, AFP reports.

The defense ministry said the initial plan was to deploy 8,500 army, air force and navy personnel in Rio during World Youth Day from June 22 to 28 when 1.5 million pilgrims are expected.

"But the total was boosted to 10,266 men because of the massive street protests in June," a ministry spokesman said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In addition to the armed forces, state security officials will launch "the biggest police operation in the city's history," said Roberto Alzir Dias Chaves, the undersecretary for major events.

The defense ministry spokesman said the armed forces will handle security in 10 areas, including control of the air space, border surveillance, chemical and biological weapons, explosives trade, maritime defense and cyber-security.

"There will be maritime patrols off Copacabana beach" where the pope will deliver a welcoming speech for the youth on July 25 and a performance of the Scriptural Stations of the Cross the next day, the spokesman added.

Rousseff also granted police powers to 5,000 soldiers for July 27 and 28 over a 300-hectare (741-acre) vacant lot in Guaratiba, 40 kilometers (33 miles) from central Rio, to "ensure law and order" during the papal mass and a youth vigil.

Two camera-fitted helicopters will also be deployed for surveillance of the Rio events, and drones could also be activated, he said.

And the armed forces will guard 18 strategic installations (water, energy, transport) to deter any acts of sabotage.

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