Brazil is floundering through a deep recession, political upheaval, multiple corruption scandals and the Zika virus. Now, Rio de Janeiro has declared a state of financial emergency in the wake of a “total collapse in public security, health, education, transport and environmental management.”
But Rio’s problems are far more than financial. Amid economic turmoil, the state security budget has already been cut by a third, and the recent financial emergency has prompted further concern over the state’s ability to provide public safety measures.
“The decision to cut down on social services and security ahead of the Rio Olympics is not only shocking but incredibly worrying, particularly given Rio’s utterly poor record when it comes to homicides and police killings,” said Atila Roque, Brazil director at Amnesty International, in a statement. “What Rio needs is not less but more investment to ensure security forces that will be deployed across the state are properly trained to prevent the kind of human rights violations we have been documenting for years.”
Faced with plummeting tax revenues and a national recession, the state faced its worst ever public health crisis this year when unpaid doctors and nurses walked off the job.
Rio has also been forced to shut down schools and hospitals where medicine, syringes and other necessary supplies are scarce; Police, teachers and other government workers have suffered months-long delays in receiving their payments, and many retirees have protested because of unpaid pensions.
“There are occupations, protests and demonstrations every day here,” reported Al Jazeera‘s correspondent in Rio. “People come out, block streets, do sit-ins because they are fed up with the corruption and deterioration of all of their public services.”
Rio state’s interim governor Francisco Dornelles has blamed the financial crisis on a tax shortfall, especially from the oil industry, which Rio’s revenue heavily relies on. In the Official Gazette, Dornelles classified Rio’s situation as a “financial calamity” that could prevent “the fulfillment of the obligations as a result of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Rio 2016.”
The governor also requested federal funds for public services during the Olympics that start Aug. 5, Reuters reported. Interim President Michel Temer has already agreed to disburse federal funds to ensure the Olympics goes ahead as planned.
But the local organizing committee for the Games said the state’s fiscal situation did not impact its actual running of the Olympics, which relies entirely on private funds. Even Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said on Twitter that the state’s decision “in no way delays the delivery of Olympic projects and the promises assumed by the city of Rio.”
According to the Guardian, the decree is partly a political tactic: By declaring a state of financial emergency, the government is able to borrow funds without approval from the state legislature.
The state of financial emergency comes just 46 days before the start of the Olympic Games, which is the first to be held in South America. Rio expects about 500,000 foreign visitors during the Games.