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Brazilian special ops train ahead of pope visit

Saturday, July 20, 2013 - 00:44

July 20 - Brazil's navy runs manoeuvres on Friday (July 19) to train for a host of possible threats ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Rio de Janeiro which begins July 23. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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As Pope Francis' visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day festivities draws near, the city has beefed up its security. On Friday (July 19) afternoon some of the Brazilian military's most elite troops assigned to World Youth Day ran complex manoeuvres to train for the most serious of possible threats. World Youth Day is an international gathering sometimes dubbed "Catholic Woodstock" that takes place in a different city every two years and is one of the Church's ways to try and reach newer generations of followers. This year the event will last from July 23 until July 28 in the world's largest Catholic country, Brazil. Over a million people are expected to attend. In preparation for such a high-profile event, Brazil has mobilized all its security forces to help defend the city on land, sea, and in the air. According to Brazil's commanders in charge of security, an estimated 13,700 boots will be on the ground during the pope's visit, comprised mainly of military personnel. Friday, elite units ran simulations to demonstrate Brazil readiness for a variety of hostile situations. As officers looked on, troops trained in the taking of hostile buildings, stealth, hostage situations, and ran vehicle checkpoint simulations that included a chemical weapon response demonstration. Captain Rogerio Lage described where his elite units fit in. "It's a job that we consider, with the exception of Guaratiba, we are already effectively on alert. We're ready to be active in case the public security agencies are not able to handle the tasks at hand if they are beyond their capability," Lage said. The Navy will coordinate with troops on land, especially during the pope's two biggest events, the open-air appearances in Guaratiba and Copacabana beach. According to the Navy, maritime security will focus its monitoring on the shores of Rio as well as the two major bays, Guanabara and Sepetiba. Brazil has been preparing for this moment for several months aware that it has not only World Youth Day to worry about, but also the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Investing in the necessary training and resources has become a significant agenda. The country has spent little on defence since civilian rule replaced military dictatorship almost 20 years ago. The emerging South American economic power is now seeking to modernize its armed forces. Recently, the country announced plans to buy 34 used anti-aircraft tanks from the German army to help bolster air defences during the upcoming mega-events. Brazil just concluded hosting another major event, the Confederations Cup soccer tournament, in June. Security measures were unexpectedly tested when the country was shocked by wave of protests off the field that at times descended into violent conflicts with police. Rio was often the locus of this violence. Although protest numbers have dwindled from the record numbers witnessed in June, the city has continued to be a stage for unrest in the last couple weeks, pitting police and protesters against one another. During the Confederations Cup, protesters enjoyed an increased international spotlight, with images of the conflict seen world-wide. The pope's visit represents a similar opportunity and protest organizers have already announced plans to hold protests during World Youth Day. While more than one million people are expected at some of these open-air events, more than a million people also took to the streets in June during what were Brazil's largest demonstrations in two decades.

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Brazilian special ops train ahead of pope visit

Saturday, July 20, 2013 - 00:44