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Brazil: Rio security chief quits amid surge in violent crime

Police officers arrest a suspected drug dealer after a shootout during a police operation at Pavao-Pavaozinho slum in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Oct 11, 2016, 11.25 PM (IST)

The state security chief for Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, Jose Mariano Beltrame, who was behind a controversial "pacification" plan for impoverished neighbourhoods, resigned on Tuesday following a spike in violent crimes. 

Beltrame, a former police officer, was lauded because of reduced violence in recent years and inroads against criminal gangs in Rio. 

In the post since 2007, Beltrame is best known for creating the so-called Police Pacification Units (UPPs) to crack down on drug gangs that had seised control of the impoverished slums that dot the Brazilian capital.

Starting in 2008, UPPs were set up in 264 slums, in a bid to restore law and order in the city ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

Beltrame’s resignation came in only a day after gun battles between police and drug traffickers killed at least three people and wounded five in two slums in the neighbourhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema, the kind of incident the UPPs were meant to stop.

Beltrame had long pleaded for money for "phase two" of the pacification plan, in which the Brazilian government was to fund schools and clinics in the slums in an effort to turn short-term security gains into long-term ones.

Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão,told Reuters the state reluctantly accepted Beltrame's resignation. "It was 10 years of service, lots of wear and lots of pressure," Pezão said.  

Beltrame will be replaced by his deputy, Roberto Sa, starting Monday, the state government said.

Violent crime has been on the rise in Rio in recent months, exacerbated by a severe budget crisis.The state security budget was cut by 30 per cent this year, AFP reported.

(WION with inputs from agencies)

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