- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2011

SAO PAULO (AP) - The head of the federal police in Sao Paulo is braced for a high terror threat during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, one of the few times a top security official has addressed such concerns in the South American country.

Brazil hasn’t had to deal with a major terrorist attack and officially dismisses the existence of terrorists within its borders, but Roberto Troncon Filho told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper in an interview published Thursday that the World Cup will present unique safety challenges to local authorities.

“In Brazil, the (threat) level is very low, but an event like the World Cup can provide the opportunity for an attack, not against the Brazilian people, but against an international delegation,” he was quoted as saying by Folha, Brazil’s largest daily.

In addition to hosting the World Cup, Brazil will be home to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“In these occasions, the federal police believe that there is a unique risk and we want to prepare ourselves for a scenario in which the risk would be fairly elevated,” he said.

Brazil has historically been hesitant to acknowledge the possibility of terror, and it is yet to adopt any anti-terror laws. It is among several countries in Latin America to resist such laws because of memories of state dictatorships that killed or spirited away thousands of political opponents in the 1970s and 80s.

As the nation prepared to bid for the Olympics, top officials cited the lack of terrorist threats in the country as an advantage over its competitors. Then-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said at the time: “We don’t have attacks, we don’t have bombs.”

There have been reports and rumors of the presence of al-Qaida members in Brazil, especially in the so-called Tri-Border region around the borders with Argentina and Paraguay, a hotbed of smuggling and contraband. But suspects can only be prosecuted on charges such as racism, racketeering and inciting criminal activity, but cannot be deemed a terrorist, according to Brazilian law.

U.S. officials have been concerned for years that the region could be a fundraising center for Hezbollah and Hamas, although there has been no official confirmation that the Islamic extremist groups have an operational presence in the area.

Brazil does not consider Hezbollah, Hamas or the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia as terrorist organizations.

The country is home to one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East, with most living in Sao Paulo and in Foz do Iguacu, near the Tri-border region.

Brazil will be hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950. The Rio Olympics will be the first in South America.

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