The U.S. is taking the leading role in helping Brazil train security forces to prevent a repeat of violent protests that erupted during a warmup tournament for soccer’s World Cup last year.
The U.S. has provided and paid for 39 programs on issues such as crowd control, maritime security and border control, said William Marcel Murad, special projects director at Brazil’s major events secretariat, which is coordinating security for the quadrennial tournament.
Security has become a focus since last year’s Confederations Cup, which triggered the biggest demonstrations in a generation in South America’s largest country. During the warmup event, police used tear gas, rubber bullets and percussion grenades as they clashed with protesters in every city that hosted games.
“We have this course that tries to develop all the police forces to better deal with violent protests,” Murad said.
Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Japan also have provided significant assistance to Brazil, which has put together a list of what each country has to offer in terms of security training. Brazil is getting help from the U.S. even after President Dilma Rousseff canceled a state visit to Washington in September following allegations the U.S. spied on senior Brazilian officials.
Brazil plans to deploy 150,000 military and police personnel for the monthlong tournament that starts June 12. Soccer’s showpiece will be played in 12 cities from Porto Alegre in the south to Manaus, the capital of the Amazon region.
With several host cities along Brazil’s coast and Manaus on the banks of the Amazon river, a U.S. course on maritime terrorism has proved particularly useful, Murad said.
The World Cup will be the biggest sporting event ever held in Brazil, and two years later Rio de Janeiro will become the first South American city to host an Olympics.
The U.S. Embassy press office in Brasilia confirmed via e-mail, without giving further details, that it is providing training to the host nation leading up to the World Cup.
Murad said all training is organized and funded by the U.S., which has run programs since 2012. He said Brazil doesn’t have information on who provides courses.
“Our major partner right now for the World Cup is the U.S. embassy,” said Murad. “They had more availability and offer more courses than the other countries.”
Rousseff is scheduled to host U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on June 17 after Biden attends the U.S.-Ghana match.
“I don’t have to think of that,” Murad said of Brazil’s relationship with the U.S. “That’s another level of government. Our focus is technical.”
Brazilian authorities were criticized in local media for sending 24 police officials to an exercise in North Carolina that was conducted by Academi, a closely held company formerly called Black Water that provided security to the U.S. during the war in Iraq.
Some Brazilians remain wary of the U.S. because of links to the military dictatorship that ran the country between 1964 and 1985, said David Fleischer, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia.
“It leaves a bad taste in Brazilian mouths because back in the 60s and 70s there was a lot of training done, not just by the U.S., but also by the U.K. and France,” Fleischer said in a phone interview.