BY MARK GLEESON
FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:49pm EST
(Reuters) – Brazil will employ 170,000 security personnel and spend close to 1.9 billion reais ($798 million) to try and ensure a trouble free World Cup tournament, organizers said on Thursday.
A total of 150,000 armed services and public policing forces personnel will be diverted to the month-long event that kicks off on June 12, plus a further 20,000 trained private security officers hired to bolster security.
But Brazilian government officials acknowledged they were still concerned about the possibility of violence marring the tournament, following last year’s unexpected demonstrations at the Confederations Cup.
More than a million people took to the streets during the warm-up event for the World Cup to protest against poor public services, corruption and the high cost of the stadiums.
“We have a lot of concerns, not as much about protests which are a democratic right, but rather at potential violence. We are committed to preventing violence during any protest activity,” Andrei Rodrigues, the secretary for special events at the Brazilian justice ministry, told a FIFA media conference on World Cup security.
“We are firstly seeking prevention, through dialogue with the protest movements and the gathering of intelligence. We want to separate those who want to protest peacefully from those who are vandals.
“We are confident that a safe and secure World Cup can be delivered by Brazil,” said Ralf Mutschke, security director for soccer’s world governing body FIFA.
Mutschke prefaced his remarks by saying the tournament was under a spotlight and it was “pretty easy to be concerned about the World Cup when you read about the demonstrations, violence, street crime, child prostitution and drug abuse”.
Since last June’s Confederation Cup, protests have continued, though they have become smaller and more violent with anarchist groups vandalizing store fronts and banks and clashing with police.
Any disruption of the World Cup, meant to mark Brazil’s coming of age on the global stage, would embarrass President Dilma Rousseff’s government and undermine her popularity as she prepares to seek re-election in October. ($1 = 2.38 Brazilian reais)
(Editing by Todd Benson and Rex Gowar)