Police chief preparing for 2014 World Cup threats

The head of the federal police in Sao Paulo is braced for a high

terror threat during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, one of the few

times a top security official has addressed such concerns in the

South American country.

Brazil hasn’t had to deal with a major terrorist attack and

officially dismisses the existence of terrorists within its

borders, but Roberto Troncon Filho told the Folha de S. Paulo

newspaper in an interview published Thursday that the World Cup

will present unique safety challenges to local authorities.

”In Brazil, the (threat) level is very low, but an event like

the World Cup can provide the opportunity for an attack, not

against the Brazilian people, but against an international

delegation,” he was quoted as saying by Folha, Brazil’s largest

daily.

In addition to hosting the World Cup, Brazil will be home to the

2016 Rio Olympics.

”In these occasions, the federal police believe that there is a

unique risk and we want to prepare ourselves for a scenario in

which the risk would be fairly elevated,” he said.

Brazil has historically been hesitant to acknowledge the

possibility of terror, and it is yet to adopt any anti-terror laws.

It is among several countries in Latin America to resist such laws

because of memories of state dictatorships that killed or spirited

away thousands of political opponents in the 1970s and 80s.

As the nation prepared to bid for the Olympics, top officials

cited the lack of terrorist threats in the country as an advantage

over its competitors. Then-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said

at the time: ”We don’t have attacks, we don’t have bombs.”

There have been reports and rumors of the presence of al-Qaida

members in Brazil, especially in the so-called Tri-Border region

around the borders with Argentina and Paraguay, a hotbed of

smuggling and contraband. But suspects can only be prosecuted on

charges such as racism, racketeering and inciting criminal

activity, but cannot be deemed a terrorist, according to Brazilian

law.

U.S. officials have been concerned for years that the region

could be a fundraising center for Hezbollah and Hamas, although

there has been no official confirmation that the Islamic extremist

groups have an operational presence in the area.

Brazil does not consider Hezbollah, Hamas or the Armed

Revolutionary Forces of Colombia as terrorist organizations.

The country is home to one of the largest Arab populations

outside the Middle East, with most living in Sao Paulo and in Foz

do Iguacu, near the Tri-border region.

Brazil will be hosting the World Cup for the first time since

1950. The Rio Olympics will be the first in South America.

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