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Nation/World

July 24, 2013

Brazil police rate pope's security 'positive'

RIO DE JANEIRO — Even though Pope Francis’ motorcade ended up stalled on a traffic-choked street and swarmed by thousands of faithful, Brazilian officials said yesterday they evaluated security for the pontiff’s arrival in Rio as “positive.”

The frenzied crowd surrounded the motorcade Monday afternoon as people reached inside to touch Francis, snap photos with their phones or hand him babies to kiss — scenes that alarmed some onlookers, although the pope himself seemed overjoyed with the raucous welcome and kept his car window down. Francis later moved through the masses in an open-air vehicle.

Early yesterday, Brazilian security forces blamed each other for the lapse, and no one took responsibility for the traffic fiasco, which began when the driver of the pope’s car made a wrong turn.

Later though, federal police, who are in charge of most of Francis’ security, took an upbeat tone.

The agency said a meeting was held with officials from a federal agency overseeing mega-events that Brazil is hosting over the next few years, the highway police who played a role in the motorcade’s planning and the Rio mayor’s office to evaluate the security provided.

“The evaluation was positive, since there was no incident involving the pope or with any of the faithful,” an emailed note read.

It added that the swarming and halting of the motorcade “occurred for a number of reasons, in particular the options of the Vatican itself, concerning the visibility and contact with the pilgrims, expressed by the pope himself. The reduced speed of the motorcade and the vehicle’s open window are facts revealing the profile of this pontiff and the encouragement given to the faithful to approach.”

Federal police didn’t respond to requests for more explanations on how the breakdown in security happened.

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