RIO DE JANEIRO
A police officer killed Saturday in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state was the 100th slain there so far this year — part of a grim surge in violent crime in the region.
Officer Fabio Jose Cavalcante was shot dead while on duty in Baixada Fluminense, a poor, high-crime suburb of Rio, which hosted the Summer Olympics last year.
In 2016, 146 police were killed in Rio, 100 of whom were not on duty at the time. Since 1995, the force has lost more than 3,000 officers.
A year after the world applauded Rio’s successful staging of the Summer Games, Brazil’s second biggest city is in deep financial difficulty and the demoralized police are struggling to contain well-armed drug gangs based in the favelas.
President Michel Temer’s decision in July to deploy thousands of soldiers to Rio acknowledged that state police have lost the ability to cope with the often bloody struggle against the drug traffickers.
Brazil as a whole is one of the most deadly countries in the world.
Estadao newspaper recently reported that this year’s six-month homicide tally has reached just over 28,000.
That is equivalent to 155 killings a day or six an hour around the country of 208 million people.
The toll is almost seven per cent higher than last year and indicates that Brazil may again break the ceiling of 60,000 homicides a year in 2017.
By contrast, the United States, with a population of nearly 326 million, had 15,696 murders in 2015, according to the FBI.