Olympic Update: Rio sends in the tanks
As Chicagoans sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, authorities in Rio de Janeiro were sending in tanks, troops and police to try regain control of a series of slums run by gangs. It's not a pretty picture in the Brazilian city that beat Chicago for the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Since Sunday at least 23 people have died, hundreds have been injured. Roving gangs have set-up checkpoints along a major roadway to rob motorists en masse. They've torched more than 40 buses and cars and sent bullets slicing through police posts. When heavily armed officers arrive, the gang members retreat back into the shantytown slums that scar Rio's picturesque hillsides.
"Wereaffirm our full confidence in the excellence of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic security project," Rio's Olympic boss Carlos Arthur Nuzman said in a statement tonight. "We can assure that the Games in 2016... will take place in an atmosphere of total security."
It's never a good thing when the guy planning the Olympics has to applaud the use of tanks and the military on local citizens; however safety and security problems have long plagued Rio. The city's murder rate is more than four times greater than what's experienced in the United States. In the 1990's it wasn't uncommon for Rio to average more than 20 murders a day, although the Brazilian government says violent crime has been reduced in recent years.
Rio's crime problems were well known to the International Olympic Committee members who picked that city over Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid... and you have to hand it to Rio's bid team: They managed to spin Rio's security problems into a positive bidding element by claiming hosting the Games would be the impetus to once and for all fumigate Rio of the murderous gangs that control sections of the city. It looks like the Olympic clean-up has begun.