Brazil’s president has ordered the army to take over command of police forces in Rio de Janeiro, saying drug gangs have “virtually taken over” the city.
“I am taking these extreme measures because circumstances demand it,” President Michel Temer said after signing the decree Friday at his Planalto palace in the capital, Brasilia. The decree affects the entire state of Rio, including Rio de Janeiro's metropolitan area of 12 million people.
He said organized crime “threatens the tranquility of our nation. For that reason, we have just called for a federal intervention in the public security for Rio de Janeiro.”
“We will not accept a passive response to the death of innocent people. What is intolerable is that we are burying fathers and mothers and workers and police and young people and children,” he added.
Brazil's army forces already patrol in parts of Rio de Janeiro, but Friday’s decree gives the military full control of security operations in Rio state. Military generals were previously in charge of securing the city when it hosted the 2016 Olympic Games.
Defense Minister Raul Jungmann has said the army will not replace local or state police on the ground but will provide logistical support in their fight against drug lords.
Brazil's Congress is expected to ratify the decree within 10 days.
The violence in Rio was highlighted during Carnival celebrations that ended Wednesday in which images of gangs robbing tourists were repeatedly broadcast on national television.
Rio state has been hit hard by Brazil's recession and a downturn in oil markets in recent years.