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Rio Sees A ‘Surge’ In Police Killings Ahead Of The Summer Olympics

A man holds a banner designed with images of people killed during police operations against drug traffickers, framed in Olympic rings, with a message that reads in Portuguese; “”Rio, Olympic champion of the killing of Indians, and Black people for 450 years” during a protest at the Complexo de Alemao slum, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, April 2, 2016. CREDIT: SILVIA IZQUIERDO, AP
A man holds a banner designed with images of people killed during police operations against drug traffickers, framed in Olympic rings, with a message that reads in Portuguese; “”Rio, Olympic champion of the killing of Indians, and Black people for 450 years” during a protest at the Complexo de Alemao slum, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, April 2, 2016. CREDIT: SILVIA IZQUIERDO, AP

Since the beginning of April, 11 people have been killed by the police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the Summer Olympics are scheduled to begin in just 100 days. One of the victims was a five-year-old boy.

According to a report by Amnesty International, in the first three months of 2016, homicides by police in the city of Rio rose 10 percent over the same time period in 2015. In the past two years, beginning in 2014 when Brazil hosted the World Cup, police killings in the city have increased 54 percent.

The majority of the victims of this recent “surge” in police brutality have been young, black men from favelas and other marginalized areas.

“Despite the promised legacy of a safe city for hosting the Olympic Games, killings by the police have been steadily increasing over the past few years in Rio. Many have been severely injured by rubber bullets, stun grenades and even firearms used by police forces during protests,” said Atila Roque, Executive Director of Amnesty International Brazil.

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There is no sign that things are getting better, either. In fact, due to a new federal anti-terrorism law signed in February, many actions linked to exercising the right to freedom of assembly have now been criminalized, meaning thousands of activists and protesters are now in a more vulnerable position than ever.

As athletes from all over the world look to qualify for the Rio Olympics, the countdown to the Opening Ceremony has been filled with more reasons to worry than reasons to cheer. The Zika virus, the unfinished venues, the protesting workers, and the contaminated waters that will host the kayak and rowing events, all threaten the health and safety of the top-tier athletes who will be competing later this summer.

Less Than Six Months Out, The Rio Olympics Are A MessSports by CREDIT: Silvia Izquierdo, AP; Shuttershock; Dylan Petrohilos, Graphic It’s time to start the countdown – the…thinkprogress.orgBut, as the Amnesty report shows, the Brazilians themselves are the ones in the most danger. Last week, just hours after the first Olympic torch was lit and the relay to Rio began, a new bike path, constructed just for the Olympics, collapsed in Rio. Two died, and three were injured. Furthermore, homeless children are already being “swept away” by police, and police and soldiers are already increasing their presence dramatically in residential areas.

“They’re trying to give the image that Brazil is safe, that we are nice, that we are happy, that everything is all right. But it’s just a big lie,” Daniel Medeiros, an advocate for street children who volunteers for Happy Child International, told Newsweek.

Police brutality in Brazil has been steadily rising over the past couple of years. Last year, police officers in Rio were responsible for one in five homicides.

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Amnesty points out that there is not a way to directly link the increase of police killings with the Olympic Games. However, the statistics point to a clear pattern, and there is fear that as the rigor of the Games get closer, things will only get worse. Overall, Rio is expected to use about 85,000 policeman and soldiers during the Olympics — twice as many as London used in 2012.

“Until now, killings by police have for the most part not been investigated, rigorous training and clear operational guidelines for the use of ‘less-lethal’ weapons have not been established and the authorities still treat protesters like a ‘public enemy,’” Roque said.

“Over the next 100 days, there is a lot that the authorities and the organizing bodies of Rio 2016 can and must do to ensure that any public security operations will not violate human rights. We expect Rio’s police forces to take a precautionary and consultative approach to public security instead of continuing with their ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ strategy.”