Bomb plot vindicates Brazil’s unprecedented security measures for the pope’s visit

While Pope Francis parades, some 22,000 security forces stand guard.
While Pope Francis parades, some 22,000 security forces stand guard.
Image: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini
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Pope Francis was on the ground in Brazil just a few hours today before the first bomb plot was unearthed. AFP reports that a makeshift explosive device was found in the bathroom of the parking garage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, which the pope is scheduled to visit on Wednesday.

Upwards of 22,000 security staff have been called upon to protect Pope Francis during his visit to Brazil this week—some 10,000 army, air force, and navy officers, 12,000 police, and 1,700 elite security forces. Roughly 7,000 troops will maintain a ring with a four kilometer radius around the pope’s alter at all times. Authorities have even banned the use of masks at the pope’s events.

Justice and defense ministers urged him to travel in an armored car, but both Francis and the Vatican refused, citing his preference to be able to jump in and out of the car to greet the masses. In total, Brazil is expecting to spend $52 million on security and logistics during the Popes visit.

The biggest concern is protecting Francis during his most public events. Two mass events held on Copacabana beach, which runs 2.5 miles in length and is especially difficult to surveil, are particularly worrisome. Police, however, will use some 100 lookout towers to surveil the area where millions that are expected to congregate.

Brazil is notorious for crime—its murder rate has more than doubled over the past three decades. Compounding the danger, recent protests have underscored a growing unrest throughout the country. While many of the millions that have taken to the streets comprise legitimate social movements—movements tied to the shortcomings in Brazil’s schools, hospitals, and public transportation—the fear is that some carry no purpose other than instability and could seek to target the pope as a result.