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Rio declares “state of calamity” over floundering finances on eve of Olympics

by: Caribbean 360 - June 20, 2016
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The decree authorizes the state to adopt all necessary emergency measures to ration essential public services in order for the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games to take place.

The decree authorizes the state to adopt all necessary emergency measures to ration essential public services in order for the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games to take place.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Monday June 20, 2016 (Caribbean 360)– Rio state authorities have declared “a state of public calamity,” warning that extreme economic measures would need to be implemented to successfully host the Olympic Games due to begin in August.

The decree authorizes the state to “adopt all necessary emergency measures to ration essential public services in order for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to take place.”

The statement, published late Friday on the state government’s web site, said that emergency actions are necessary to avoid a “total collapse in public safety, health, education, transport and environmental management.”

“Any institutional instability would hurt the country’s image,” said the decree, signed by acting governor Francisco Dornelles.

Rio de Janeiro state is in financial difficulties due to the fall in global oil prices, while Brazil overall is floundering through a deep recession.

Civil servants in Rio state have suffered pay cheque delays because of the cash crunch, while retirees are grappling with the hardships posed by unpaid pensions.

Brazil has been mired in recession for the past two years, making it hard to fund the estimated US$10 billion the country is spending on Olympic venues and infrastructure projects to support the Games.

Those costs have contributed to widespread protests throughout Brazil, as citizens complain that the money should be spent on hospitals, schools and emergency services instead.

While Friday’s statement did not specify what emergency actions were necessary, it made it clear that without them the event would be jeopardized.

According to the statement: “It is for the competent authorities to adopt exceptional necessary measures to rationalize all public services, with the aim of realizing the Games.”

Brazil has suffered economic and political chaos, not to mention the ravages of the Zika virus, leading up to the Games, which were awarded to Rio when the country was enjoying boom times.

As a leading world supplier of natural resources, Brazil has been severely impacted by the global economic slowdown, which has seen commodity prices plummet.

Adding to the economic woes is leadership upheaval. President Dilma Rousseff was suspended last month by the Brazilian Senate, which will hold an impeachment trial on charges that she violated spending accounting rules.

In the meantime, many of the country’s top politicians have been ensnared in a bribery corruption scandal involving the state-run oil company Petrobras.

Corruption charges also have swirled around interim President Michel Temer, who had been vice president prior to Rousseff’s suspension, and there has been a steady shuffling of top government officials.

The economic and political problems have sparked mass protests by supporters and opponents of Rousseff, and there is concern that new demonstrations could cause disruption for visitors attending the games.

The August 5-21 Olympics and September 7-18 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro are the first to be held in South America.