Brazil readies 'RoboCops' to prevent World Cup riots
Published 14/05/2014 | 02:30
Police in Rio de Janeiro will be kitted out in a 'RoboCop' style suit of armour to protect officers in the event of violent protests during the World Cup.
Members of a special unit set up for the World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio received 200 sets of the special 10kg protective equipment, which is flame resistant to up to 427C.
Brazil plans to deploy 150,000 military and police personnel for the month-long tournament that starts on June 12.
The equipment includes a helmet and vest that protects the back, chest and shoulders, as well as space for a pistol, stun gun, handcuffs, baton and gun loader.
The Major Events Police Battalion (BPGE), a branch of the military police, was formed in January this year in response to widespread public demonstrations during last year's Confederations Cup.
Last year, there were clashes between police and demonstrators as thousands protested against public spending ahead of the World Cup, which starts next month.
Rio de Janeiro will host seven games during the competition, including the final on July 13.
The unit was announced in Rio state's 'Official Gazette' and has 600 specially trained officers.
The announcement by Jose Mariano Beltrame, state secretary for security, cited "the need to give the military police specialised, efficient and intelligent instruments for patrolling, aimed at the preservation of public order in public places where there is the presence of a crowd of people gathered together".
Lieutenant colonel Wagner Villares, commander of the unit, said the equipment would protect officers from missiles like the firecracker that killed cameraman Santiago Andrade earlier this year.
"The plastic uniform is resistant to knocks and blows," he told news website Ultimo Segundo. "Underneath the plastic that covers the back and the chest, there is another protective layer that absorbs and spreads the force of a blow."
The armour is similar to that worn by the Choque battalion, a special riot control unit.
Like police units in Sao Paulo, the Major Events Police Battalion officers have also received martial arts training. The US is taking the leading role in helping Brazil train security forces.
The US has provided and paid for 39 programmes on issues such as crowd control, maritime security and border control, said William Marcel Murad, special projects director at Brazil's major events secretariat, which is coordinating security for the most-watched sports event.
Security has become a focus since last year's Confederations Cup, which triggered the biggest demonstrations in a generation in South America's largest country. During the warm-up event, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades as they clashed with protesters in every city that hosted games.
"We have this course that tries to develop all the police forces to better deal with violent protests," Mr Murad said.
Canada, the UK, France, Germany and Japan have also provided significant assistance to Brazil.
Brazil is getting help from the US even after President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a state visit to Washington in September following allegations that the US spied on senior Brazilian officials. (© Daily Telegraph, London)