Brazil’s president promised Monday to battle drug traffickers who launched 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 officers died and four were injured Saturday when bullets from the gang battle ripped into their helicopter hovering overhead, forcing it into a fiery crash landing on a soccer field. Officials said they did not know if the gangs targeted the helicopter or it was hit by stray bullets. A third officer who was badly burned died on Monday.
Silva said the federal government will give emergency 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 a 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.
Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral said the president promised him $59 million in fresh funds over the next six months to fight crime.
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.