Rio, Briefly, as Safe as It Used To Be With AM-Earth Summit, Bjt
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Crime-plagued Rio residents often joke that the city’s famous statue of Christ should raise its outstretched arms above its head - to indicate a hold- up.
But with 35,000 police and soldiers patrolling the streets during the Earth Summit, residents say they feel at ease - for once - strolling the beachfront and returning home late.
In fashionable Copacabana, where tourists flock and stick-ups are common, police claim a 50 percent drop in reported crimes. Much of the crime is rooted in unemployment and a skewed distribution of income.
″The city is safer. You can feel the difference,″ said Eva Britz, as she strolled on the boardwalk along fashionable Copacabana Beach one recent evening. ″The summit will end soon, so I’m going to enjoy this while I can.″
The impending gathering of more heads of state in one place than ever doesn’t seem to worry the man in charge of protecting them.
″We have planned for this event for a year,″ said Edson Antonio de Oliveira. ″We’re prepared to expect the worst and hoping it doesn’t happen.″
The presidents, prime ministers, royalty and political strong-men - more than 110 of them - began arriving in bunches on Tuesday. Everyone will be in town by Saturday, when the formal U.N. Earth Summit group photo will be taken.
Oliveira said he put the leaders into one of three categories - high, medium and low risk. He would not say who was in each category.
″I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,″ he said. ″Some may believe they’re in category one when they’re really in category three. It’s very delicate diplomatically.″
Native Indians from around the globe are a feature attraction at the Global Forum, the ″green″ counter-summit being held at Flamengo Park.
Many environmentalists treat the Indians - especially those wearing feather headresses and beads with their gym shorts - as spiritual leaders and philosophical mentors.
″Why don’t you have a school, to teach us what your people know,″ one participant recently gushed to a chief from the Xavante tribe of western Brazil. The chief, perplexed, was unable to respond.
But Mario Juruna, Brazil’s former and only indigenous congressman, thought the Global Forum the ideal place to try to sell for $200 the pelt of an 8-foot jaguar killed on his tribe’s reservation in Mato Grosso state.
″Whites kill cockroaches, why can’t Indians kill a jaguar?″ Juruna reasoned after his attempted sale scandalized the Forum. ″If an Indian wants to sell a pelt, it’s his right. Who are these ecologists defending?″
A Rio court has ruled that Brazil’s ″Serial Kisser,″ Jose Alves de Moura, can circulate freely during the Earth Summit.
Moura asked for the court order as a preventive measure, fearing police would try to restrict his movements after the heads of states arrived.
Moura’s biggest successes came in 1980, when he kissed Frank Sinatra’s cheek and Pope John Paul II’s feet.
He has not been seen at the Rio Center, site of the conference. But he planted a smooch on Shirley MacLaine last weekend as the actress walked in a march for Earth Day.