Security at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil
The 2014 FIFA World Cup will be held in Brazil from 12 June to 13 July. In a recent interview, Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento), the retired Brazilian football legend, stated that as a Brazilian, the ongoing civil unrest in the country not only saddens him but could also sour the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Pele is one of the most lauded players in the history of football and is frequently ranked the best player ever. However, does his expertise carry over to the field of political and security risk analysis, and will the protests, as he believes, spoil the World Cup?
Brief background on protests
Sporadic protests over socio-economic and labour concerns have been affecting Brazil since June 2013. Although the largest of these corresponded with the FIFA Confederations Cup (FCC) period (15 to 30 June), related gatherings have been ongoing in recent months. The civil unrest was initially motivated by an increase in public transport fares in Rio de Janeiro; however, the campaign soon garnered significant support and momentum. It formed a convenient platform for various civil society groupings to voice their respective grievances, including issues regarding service delivery, concerns over the World Cup, corruption, etc. Despite significantly reduced support for the protest movement following the FCC period, periodic protests continue in the country and violence still remains a considerable concern at related events. Most recent socio-economic demonstrations have focused on Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. It should be noted that police forces often resort to heavy-handed tactics to disperse protesters (as seen in the video below):
(Warning: Video contains scenes of violence some viewers may find disturbing )
Will there be protests?
Yes, protests by a variety of disparate groups are expected in host cities during the World Cup. These groups have already indicated their intention to disrupt the tournament if their demands are not met. Pele’s views are therefore based on credible concerns. However, it should be noted that disruptions caused by potential protests are anticipated to be largely minimised by government security operations in the 12 host cities. It is red24’s position that these events will not reach the magnitude of those witnessed during the FCC period. This is due, in roughly equal measures, to the large-scale increase in security aimed at limiting disruptions caused by potential protests (the government has invested over US$2.2 billion into World Cup security in 2013 alone) and the placating options that are available to President Dilma Rousseff so as to counter any burgeoning protest movement. Nevertheless, gatherings will still likely be planned in areas that allow for maximum exposure; these include sites associated with the tournament. Further details on planned protests and city-specific protest hotspots can be found at red24.com. These events have the potential to turn violent, as these are often infiltrated by disruptive elements, such as members of the anarchist Black Bloc. A great source for additional views from Brazil, specifically related to the World Cup, can be found on the “A Brazilian Operating in This Area” – blog, by the local journalist, Mauricio Savarese.
What should Pele be concerned about?
According to the red24 2014 Threat Forecast, despite the media focus on protests, the most apparent risk during the World Cup is the high threat from crime in Brazil, particularly in major urban centres. Already-high petty crime rates will likely be elevated, particularly near stadiums, popular tourist areas and transport hubs; violent crime will remain an ever-present concern, mainly in lower-income areas and within cities at night. The government will attempt to reduce this risk through increased surveillance and an overall heightened police presence; however, official efforts are likely to fall short of significantly reducing the risk of crime in host cities.
A further concern is that of express kidnapping. This form of kidnapping involves victims being held temporarily while they are forced to withdraw money or hand over PIN details so that money can be withdrawn from ATMs. Although the use of bogus taxis or rogue taxi drivers is a primary modus operandi of express kidnappers, incidents are also perpetrated near outdoor and isolated indoor ATMs. In recent years, there have been a number of instances of this short-term form of abduction affecting foreign nationals in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other cities that are set to host World Cup matches. Although somewhat mitigated by an increased security force presence, there is still a credible concern of express kidnapping facing those visiting host cities.
It should also be noted that there is a risk of terrorism at the World Cup that is associated with all international events. Lastly, those visiting host cities are not immune from the prevailing kidnapping for ransom risk.
Pele’s concern over protests in Brazil is therefore valid, but it is unlikely at this stage that these gatherings will ruin the World Cup. As seen above, there are various other concerns of which visitors to Brazil should be made aware. However, by adopting a number of commonsense precautions, these risks can be greatly mitigated.
red24 has launched a tailored package of services for visitors to the 2014 World Cup. This has been designed to provide travellers with detailed advice, security updates and 24/7 telephone support during the event. For more information about this package, please click here
Article by Barend Lutz, follow him @LutzBarend