SAO PAULO (CNS) — Security officials at all levels are coordinating to make sure World Youth Day is secure for pilgrims, including foreign visitors.
World Youth Day’s Local Organizing Committee has released details of a contingency plan to be used July 23-28, when the international event takes place in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil’s federal police and the federal highway police will be in charge of Pope Francis’ personal security, escorting the pontiff to the different event sites. Military police will be in charge of opening and closing of roads, as well as the security of tourist sites. The National Security Force will serve as a contingency force and will be activated only if needed. Civil police will be in charge of crowd control. Municipal Guards will patrol subways and train stations, guarding pilgrim sites.
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The Ministry of Defense said it would not place troops on display on the streets with armored cars and rifles. Army personnel will be seen only when necessary, so that their presence will not be overt.
“The safety of a big event like World Youth Day involves all three levels of government” — federal, state and municipal, said Rio de Janeiro’s undersecretary for major events, Roberto Alzir Dias Chaves. He said Brazilians had exchanged information with Italian police and with Spanish officials — the last World Youth Day was in Madrid in August 2011.
Members of the World Youth Day organizing committee said one of Rio’s main attractions — the Corcovado, the mountain on which stands the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer — was the location for the training of 70 military police officers from the Special Battalion of Police Operations, canine units and Airmobile Grouping. The training included five stages: aircraft approach; recapture of the Corcovado train; rescue of victims; positioning sharpshooters; and equipment demonstration.
In March, police officers and military personnel, as well as officers from the municipal guard, attended a course in crowd control that included officials from Europe. The goal was to prepare security personnel for large events in Rio, such as World Youth Day, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2016.
But while World Youth Day and government officials meticulously go over security issues, volunteers and pilgrims planning to attend voiced optimism about the success of the event.
“We are so much more motivated now that the pope is a Latin American,” said Guilherme Sanches, a volunteer at the Archdiocese of Campinas and leader of two groups going to Rio for World Youth Day. “I have not heard of anyone changing their minds about (going to) Rio due to security issues. I know some people that will not be able to go due to time constraints and money problems, but not due to security issues.”
Foreign volunteers already in Rio to help out before the event expressed confidence about the success of World Youth Day.
“I know everything will work out and that everyone will enjoy the event,” said James Kelliher, 27, of London. He said he would like to see the same festive atmosphere seen during Rio’s famous Carnival.