Rio de Janeiro - Rio state authorities
declared a "state of public calamity" Friday over a major budget
crisis in order to release emergency funds to finance the Olympic Games due to
begin in August.
The decree authorises 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
"Any institutional instability would
hurt the country's image," said the decree, signed by acting governor
The August 5-21 Olympics and September 7-18
Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro will be the first to be held in South America.
The events pose "serious difficulties
in delivering essential public services and could even cause a collapse in
public safety, health, education, transportation and environmental
management," the decree said.
Rio de Janeiro state is in financial
straits due to the fall in global oil prices, while Brazil overall is
floundering through a deep recession.
Police, teachers and other government
workers in Rio state have seen pay checks delayed because of the cash crunch.
Retirees have protested because of unpaid pensions.
Brazil's economy shrank 3.8 percent last
year, its worst recession in 25 years. The International Monetary Fund and the
market are predicting a similar contraction this year.
Amnesty International expressed concern at
the cuts to social services, which could affect the training of security agents
to work in the crime-ridden slums known as favelas.
The decision to cut services and security
ahead of the Olympic Games "is not only a shock but is also incredibly
worrying, especially given the bad history of police killings and
murders," Amnesty's Brazil director, Atila Roque, said in a statement.
Rio's state budget shows a $5.6 billion
shortfall for 2016. Royalties from oil - the state's main revenue-earner - are
projected to collapse from $3.5 billion in 2014 to just $1 billion this year.
Dornelles has called the situation in his
He urged the national government to step
up, and pressed authorities to look at what public assets could be sold off to
After much pleading, Rio received nearly
$300 million from the federal coffers to extend its metro network to link the
main Olympic zone of Barra da Tijuca with the chic Ipanema district.
But the federal budget is in no better
Brazil's primary fiscal deficit is forecast
to be around $47 billion. And the government is confronted with double-digit
inflation, unemployment at a record 11 percent.
The climate has been worsened by political
upheaval. The country is in the midst of a controversial impeachment process
against its left-wing president, Dilma Rousseff, who has been suspended from
office for alleged manipulation of public accounts.
She has been replaced in the interim by her
vice president, Michel Temer, who comes from the centre-right PMDB party - the
same grouping that runs Rio de Janeiro and the state housing it.
Rousseff's fate is to be decided by the
Senate in the coming months, likely in the middle of August, when the Olympics
will be in full swing.
The Games are expected to bring in 10 500
athletes and half a million tourists from around the world, with sporting
events and Rio itself to be thrown into the glare of international media.