Brazil Vows to Fight Gangs, Rio Death Toll Hits 21

By: Alan Clendenning - AP Writer
By: Alan Clendenning - AP Writer

Brazil's president promised Monday to battle drug traffickers who triggered a weekend of bloody chaos that killed 21 people in Rio de Janeiro just two weeks after the city won the 2016 Olympic games.

"We'll do anything it takes and make all necessary sacrifices
so we can clean up the mess that these people are imposing on
Brazil," President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told reporters in Sao
Paulo.

Rio police said the death toll from weekend clashes between
rival gangs had risen from 14 to 21 because more bodies were found
in the Morro dos Macacos ("Monkey Hill") slum, where the shooting
also downed a police helicopter.

Two of the six officers in the chopper died Saturday after the
helicopter made a fiery landing on a soccer field, and a third who
was badly burned died on Monday.

Silva said the federal government will provide more funding to
state authorities to combat the drug gangs that control many of
Rio's 1,000 slums, and will give police a bulletproof helicopter.

He didn't mention security preparations for the Olympics, but
said Brazil knows "it will take time to resolve the problems of
the gangs, organized crime and the drug traffickers in Rio de
Janeiro."

Other Brazilian officials have said the outbreak has
strengthened their resolve to make Rio safer ahead of the games and
before 2014, when Brazil will host the World Cup soccer tournament,
with key games in Rio, the country's second-biggest city.

The new death toll announced in an police statement sent by
e-mail to The Associated Press did not say how many of the dead
were suspected gang members and how many were bystanders. Some Rio
residents complained that officials wrongly classified their slain
relatives as presumed criminals.

"When you have a conflict of this magnitude, the innocent
people always pay the price," Silva said.

The International Olympic Committee put aside concerns about
security to award the 2016 games to Rio on Oct. 2.

Silva has said that Rio has repeatedly demonstrated it can put
on big events without risks to participants.


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