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A little local difficulty in Rio before the Pan American Games

Security forces and drug traffickers battled with guns and grenades in a Rio de Janeiro slum on Wednesday after more than 1,000 policemen backed by armored cars invaded the area in a show of force before the Pan American Games. About 450 soldiers occupied the main entrances to the area that groups more than 20 slums in the north of the city.

Gang members set up barricades and created oil slicks to slow down the police assault. The BBC's Gary Duffy in Sao Paulo says the police face a formidable opposition as many members of the drug gangs have high-calibre weapons. In a recent exchange of gunfire a man was killed at a petrol station up to 2km (1.2 miles) from where the shot was originally fired.

The police had been surrounding the slums in northern Rio, known as the German Complex and home to some 100,000 people, since 2 May. Police chief Gilberto Ribeiro said the raid was based on intelligence gathered since police occupied the neighboring Vila Cruzeiro slum on May 2.

The Alemao, an area controlled by drug lords and gangs, is so dangerous that it is known as the Gaza strip of Rio de Janeiro. Police have complained they are outgunned by the drugs gangs, who are blamed for a plague of killings and kidnappings in the city.

Over 20 people have been killed and about 60, mostly innocent residents, have been wounded during regular shootouts between police and drug gangs in the area since then.

On Monday, police killed three suspects in a raid on a slum next to Rio de Janeiro's international airport, prompting air traffic control authorities to consider closing a runway.

Shootouts between drug gangs and police are a daily occurrence in Rio, which has an annual homicide rate of about 50 per 100, 000 residents. The government despatched hundreds of specially trained officers from the national security force in response to violence in December, when gangs set fire to buses and attacked police posts.

"We must retake control of the slums and instil public order. The goal is to put an end to the traffickers' arsenals," state public safety secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame said.

Officials announced separately on Wednesday that 2, 000 more elite police will be sent to Rio in coming days to boost security for the games and that 6, 000 overall will be in place for the event.

Rio de Janeiro officials are trying to make the city safer before it hosts the Pan-American games on 13-29 July. Some 5,500 athletes and around 800,000 tourists are expected to visit the city for the games.

Source: Agencies

Meanwhile compare the above with the boosterist hype from the 'Rio 2007' site

Winning the right to host the Pan American Games is much more than organizing a huge sports competition. For the host city and country, and even for the American continent, it means to an event that will give rise to profound social and economic changes that will remain for the long term.

The Games thoroughly modify the host cities; the South Korean capital, Seoul, and the Spanish city of Barcelona being clear examples of such changes. These cities were revitalized in various aspects after the respective 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games.

Rio's victory in the competition to host the Pan American Games has already resulted in an increased international credibility as far as the capacity of a Brazilian city to organize a major international event is concerned.

During the preparation and competition period, the Games will tighten the bonds of both Rio de Janeiro and Brazil with the countries of America. Besides, they will provide the city with the necessary experience to carry out an operation of this caliber. Rio will be presented to the world as a city with organizational capacity and rich in terms of sports, arts, culture and natural resources.

The creation of job vacancies - some of which are temporary and some others to become permanent after the Games is one of the social benefits in the years leading up to 2007 and beyond. New events will take place, trading will grow, and more investments will arrive. Tourism will receive a great boost with the construction of new hotels and the improvement of the city's tourism infrastructure.

This will represent the consolidation of Rio as the leading Latin American city in the tourism industry. The Rio 2007 volunteering program and the creation of such new jobs will lead together to the development of qualified workforce in different areas, but mainly in services for foreign visitors.

Tourism accommodation will also improve, as well as sport facilities with many others still to come. All of them will remain as a significant legacy for the city and the country, allowing for the development of sport activities, discovery of new talents, and the formation of a technical body and centers of excellence.

All this will modify the urban infrastructure, since the areas adjacent to sport facilities will also experience improvements.There will be an important evolution in sectors such as technology, telecommunications and specialized sports medicine.

And, above all, we will be left with a lingering memory of a special moment in time, which gathered athletes from all American countries in a historic meeting that focuses on the true values of sport.

More at: Rio 2007

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