RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — U.S. agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have opened an office in Rio de Janeiro, host city for next year’s Olympics, to help local forces fight drug and weapons traffickers, officials said Monday.
“There has been cooperation with U.S. federal agents in Rio since August,” a source with the Rio state security office told AFP.
The state secretary for security, José Mariano Beltrame, told Globo television that the DEA’s presence “was a boost for the country.”
“We will have a specialist group here in Rio de Janeiro,” he said in televised comments.
Beltrame said that DEA expertise with international intelligence would help “to identify people, equipment, drugs and other things.”
Brazilian police, backed by heavily armed special forces, are locked in a bloody struggle with drug gangs, some of them armed with powerful assault rifles, in poor neighborhoods of Rio known as favelas.
Human rights organizations regularly accuse Brazilian police of carrying out impromptu executions and tampering with evidence. With 1,305 murders in 2014 — the last statistics available — Rio de Janeiro is one of the most violent cities in the country.
According to Brazilian weekly Isto E, two agents are already in the city, which next August will host South America’s first Olympic Games.
“I can confirm that the DEA has opened an office in Rio. It is located at the U.S. consulate general,” DEA spokesman Matt Barden told AFP in Washington.
Barden said the DEA had long been active in Brazil but that the new office would increase its effectiveness.