Lauded security boss in Rio quits as crime, violence surge
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The state security secretary of Rio de Janeiro will step down from his post, according to an aide, as violence and crime rebound in the Brazilian city and erase many of the gains made during the near-decade he was in the job.
Jose Mariano Beltrame, a former police officer who was lauded in recent years because of reduced violence and inroads against criminal gangs in Rio, met on Monday with the state governor and was expected to formalize his departure on Tuesday, the aide to Beltrame said.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity due to not being authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Beltrame brought more stability to once-dangerous slums and paved the way for Rio to host the 2014 World Cup and the recent Olympic Games but in recent months has increasingly criticized a lack of resources and political commitment by the state government.
After an economic boom and heavy investment across Rio, Brazil's best-known and second-largest city, the state is now slashing its security budget and other public expenditures because of a financial crisis and the country's worst recession since the Great Depression.
Falling tax revenue, combined with lower royalties from Rio's offshore oil fields, will cause a 2016 state deficit of as much as 20 billion reais ($6.23 billion), according to government figures.
Now, drug traffickers and other criminal gangs have grown emboldened to retake territory that the state had occupied in an ambitious effort to "pacify" large swaths of a metropolitan region of more than 12 million people that for decades had been fully controlled by outlaws.
On Tuesday, a daylong gun battle waged between state police and suspected traffickers in the community of Pavão-Pavãozinho, a hillside slum that overlooks some of Rio's wealthiest districts.
At least three of the suspects were killed and several policemen were injured in the fighting, which rattled the Southern Zone of Rio, home to its most popular beaches and tourist sites.
A video filmed by an onlooker and broadcast by local media showed one of those shot by police plummeting to his death down a steep hillside on the outer edge of the slum.
Also on Monday, fighting around Cidade de Deus, another well-known slum, led local officials to close 21 schools, causing 8000 children to miss class.
($1 = 3.21 Brazilian reais)
(Reporting by Paulo Prada)