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Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ordered a temporary militarization of the country’s most important ports and airports, a move aimed at addressing the rising crime in the South American nation following a series of incidents in Rio de Janeiro state, Reuters reported.

The leftist president said soldiers will cooperate with federal police to manage security operations in key airports and ports, including the port of Santos in São Paulo, and its main airport Guarulhos.

Those ports and airports are key logistical hubs for booming cocaine exports to Europe, while also receiving contraband like high-caliber weapons that contribute to street violence.

Brazil’s army and air force will also be deployed to strengthen the border with neighboring nations to curb the flow of weapons and cocaine into Brazil.

The measure will last until May 2024 and comes as the country has experienced a spike in violence in recent months. The situation has been particularly severe in Rio de Janeiro, which has seen deadly clashes among drug lords, vigilante mafias known as “militias” and police.

Last month, three doctors were brutally murdered near a beach in Rio after allegedly being confused for rivals from a militia. Last week, militias set fire to dozens of Rio buses after police killed one of their leaders in an operation.

Brazil has increasingly become a focal point for the trafficking of cocaine to Europe, which has led to the empowerment of local criminal organizations and a worsening security situation felt across South America, including gang-related violence in Ecuador.

Lula’s decision to deploy the military also marks a notable reversal of his earlier stance to avoid sending soldiers “in the favelas, exchanging gunfire with gangsters.”

Under his right-wing predecessor President Jair Bolsonaro, the number of homicides in Brazil had significantly decreased from previously record highs.

However, public opinion polls indicate that Brazilians have a less favorable view of Lula’s ability to effectively address the rising violence.

A recent poll showed that 32 percent of Brazilians expect the security situation to worsen during Lula’s presidency, marking a six-percentage-point increase from a previous survey conducted in May.

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