RIO DE JANEIRO, April 17 (UPI) -- Brazil is beefing up national security in preparation for the July visit of Pope Francis, the FIFA World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympics.
In a follow-up to controversial cleanouts of urban slums in Rio and other Brazilian cities, police are supplementing locally manufactured vehicles with anti-riot armored units made by South Africa's Paramount group.
Delivery of the vehicles is to start in May.
The slums, known as favelas, haven't entirely disappeared despite repeated police and paramilitary operations and remain problem areas for Brazil's law enforcement agencies, including army units used occasionally when police action fails.
The favelas are seen as hotbeds of crime, drug trade and human trafficking -- blots on the image the government of President Dilma Rousseff wants to present to the pope when he visits in July, the World Cup next year and the Olympics.
Before the pontiff's visit, Brazil will also host the FIFA Confederations Cup, an international association soccer tournament conducted June 15-30, which is a prelude to the 2014 World Cup. Brazil is the defending champion.
Brazil's growth as a destination for business conferencing has added pressure to calls for the cities to be "cleaned up." Critics say the methods used by the authorities are brutal, leading to the rise in the number of jobless and homeless people.
Paramount in a statement didn't reveal the number of armored vehicles it would supply. It also didn't disclose the contract value.
The contract is the latest indication that Brazil is expanding its security apparatus both for internal law enforcement and for external defense of its oil and gas resources, industries and land and marine borders.
New recruitment in the security forces is swelling ranks and giving rise to larger security departments, computerization of personal data and online monitoring though very little is reported in the media.
Paramount said its Maverick internal security cars will play "a critical role in the security infrastructure" being developed before the events.
The vehicles will be used main in the state of Rio de Janeiro, including by Special Forces within the military police.
The vehicles were used during the Africa Cup of Nations and in Congo Brazzaville, Defense News and Business Day Live said on their websites.
The Maverick is designed to shield law enforcement personnel against armor-piercing weapons including hand grenades.
Paramount also sees the sale as a welcome entry to Latin America's internal security market. Analysts said Brazilian and other regional manufacturers, as well as international exporters from the European Union, Russia and Asia see Paramount as competition.
Paramount Group Executive Chairman Ivor Ichikowitz acknowledged the sale was an important step toward consolidating the company's focus on the Latin America market.
He said Brazil launched an international bid for the acquisition of internal security vehicles in 2012 drawing world leaders in the defense and security industries.
"A lengthy and vigorous schedule of technical evaluations, practical field testing and a competitive and transparent procurement process was open to both domestic and international manufacturers of such vehicles," Ichikowitz said.
The Maverick has manual and automatic fire-extinguishing systems around the wheel stations and other vulnerable areas to ensure the crew is protected against firebombs. It is also protected against ballistic attacks and has the ability to adjust tire pressure for use on different types of terrain.
A situation awareness capability through armored glass windows, CCTV cameras and other sensors provide continuous real-time updates to a crew of a dozen or more personnel.