Brazil to deploy troops to guard voters in Rio slums

RIO DE JANEIRO Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:04am EDT

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Keith Bedford

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil's Defense Ministry plans to send troops to ensure peaceful campaigning and voting in notoriously violent slum areas of the country's second largest city for upcoming local elections.

Soldiers and marines will deploy in Rio de Janeiro slums on Sunday to guarantee "democratic freedom" and allow candidates to campaign a week ahead of the municipal elections, a Defense Ministry statement said. The military presence will continue until voting is over on Oct 7.

Twenty political parties are competing for mayoral and local council seats in 5,565 towns and cities across Brazil in the election which will test support for President Dilma Rousseff's ruling Workers Party (PT).

While Rousseff's approval ratings are at record highs for a Brazilian president despite a slowing economy, her popularity has not brushed off on her party.

A corruption scandal involving vote-buying by the party during former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's first term has hurt the PT's standing in Brazil's big cities and the party faces possible defeat in key races in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador and Recife.

The use of troops to guard elections is common in Latin America.

The Defense Ministry said the soldiers will only be deployed during the day to ensure that candidates and election officials can go about their business calmly in slums on the north and west side of Rio. The troops will not engage in law enforcement, it said.

Rousseff must still approve the troop deployment decided by Defense Minister Celso Amorim and the head of Brazil's electoral authority, Carmen Lucia.

"We want people - both candidates and voters - to be able to express themselves freely, guaranteeing the democratic freedom we enjoy in Brazil," Lucia said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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