Security authorities in Rio de Janeiro express concern about announced protests during World Youth Day, which begins Tuesday. Instead of the originally planned 8.500 soldiers are now to 14.300 to be deployed.
While the Vatican rejects changes to the pope's official visit schedule, local authorities are trying to prevent transfers of Francis across city streets. They fear demonstrations could paralyze traffic.
Meanwhile, both Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and the Vatican stressed that the demonstrations were not directed against the pope or the church. However, such chants could also be heard on Wednesday: "I can do without the pope, I want my money for health and education".
Via social networks, several groups have already announced protests in the city for the period of the pope's visit from Monday to Sunday, including atheists who want to protest the financing of WYD with public money. The protest is to coincide with the pope's arrival on Monday. For Saturday (27. July), pro-prostitute associations have called for a "demo of whores" (Marcha das vadias). Rio's mayor stressed that demonstrations were part of the country's democratic culture and would therefore not be stopped.
Possible program changes
Security authorities are currently considering rescheduling the official reception of Pope Francis by President Dilma Rousseff, according to the newspaper reports. Rousseff plans to greet the pope at Rio's international airport on Monday; the official reception, however, is to take place afterwards at the Rio governor's residence. A few days ago, demonstrators besieged the palace during a violent protest event. That led authorities to assess that security was not guaranteed there, they said. The official reception, which is to include a one-on-one meeting between the pope and Rousseff, could now take place right in the reception area of the airport.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi had said Wednesday that the protests were not directed against the pope or the church. The Vatican is said to have already asked World Youth Day organizers not to use soldiers with guns at papal events at Copacabana. In addition, Francis is foregoing his closed papamobile. Instead, he wants to drive through the crowd in an open jeep at the events at the Copacabana.
30 arrests in Brazilian favela
In a major crackdown on drug gangs, police had arrested at least 30 people in a poor neighborhood earlier in the week. Police said they had 58 court orders for the operation, called "Armed Peace," in the Rocinha favela. 21 people taken away on arrest warrants, nine others caught directly in offenses.
Police believe that around 90 drug traffickers continue to be in Rocinha, the largest favela in the city of six million, Rio, with more than 70,000 inhabitants.
Authorities also established a "Peacemaking Police Units" (UPP) guard in Rocinha in 2012 to curb the overt presence of drug gangs and gun violence there. In late May, a German tourist was shot there during the day and in the open street.