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Brazil’s military to take control of Rio police as drug violence spirals

The move comes as President Michel Temer’s popularity has fallen to single digits.

Brazil’s federal government has issued a decree to put the military in charge of Rio de Janeiro’s local police amid a spike in violence.

The move is significant, symbolically and in practical terms, for Latin America’s largest nation, where many still remember the brutal 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

Putting the military in charge could bring immediate relief from drug trafficking violence, but also spur fears among Rio’s residents about the use of strong-arm tactics.

The decree needs to be confirmed by Congress and is expected to pass. Chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia told journalists in Brasilia that it would be voted on next week.

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Brazil Rio Intervention

The move is a “triple jump without a safety net”, said Mr Maia. “We can’t get this wrong. This is an exceptional measure that hopefully won’t take too long to re-establish order.”

The move comes as President Michel Temer’s popularity has fallen to single digits, and his push to pass pension reform looks to be flailing.

Many saw the decision as a way for him to deflect attention from his political woes.

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Brazil’s President Michel Temer speaks during the signing of a decree for the military intervention of Rio de Janeiro’s local police (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Still, there is little denying that Rio is struggling. Rio state governor Luiz Fernando Pezao admitted that security planning failed to secure residents and tourists during Carnival celebrations, which ended on Tuesday.

Several violent incidents took place in Rio during the world famous event, including muggings, armed robberies and confrontations.

Brazilian media said Rio’s public security secretary Roberto Sa has already stepped aside due to the intervention.

Mr Temer is expected to speak to the nation later.

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(Screengrab/PA)

Security consultant Paulo Storani, a former commander of Rio’s elite police force known as the BOPE, said Mr Temer’s decision “will bring a lot of challenges to the military because it will not solve a security problem of decades”.

“Rio’s problem is more complex than police management. There could be a quick sensation of security, but that will not last.”

Former national security secretary Jose Vicente da Silva believes the military intervention “is not definitive, but helps”.

“Rio state can’t solve this any time soon and the military could be effective in keeping some smaller groups that have operated lately off of the streets.”

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