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Rio security chief resigns amid rise in violence

Rio's militarized police personnel guard the scene of a shooting (AFP Photo/VANDERLEI ALMEIDA)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - The security chief for the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, Jose Mariano Beltrame -- the architect of a controversial "pacification" plan for impoverished neighborhoods -- resigned Tuesday amid a spike in violent crime.

Beltrame will be replaced by his deputy, Roberto Sa, starting Monday, the state government said.

In the post since 2007, Beltrame is best known for creating so-called Police Pacification Units (UPPs) to crack down on drug gangs that had seized de facto control of the impoverished favelas, or slums, that dot the city of Rio de Janeiro, the state capital.

Starting in 2008, UPPs were set up in 264 favelas -- home to more than 1.5 million people -- in a bid to restore law and order to the picturesque but troubled city ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

"Tha fight against drug trafficking is a never-ending one. And it is a relay race. And I have done my part," Beltrame told TV Globo.

Beltrame's resignation came a day after gun battles between police and drug traffickers killed at least three people and wounded five in two slums overlooking the chic beach neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema -- the kind of incident the UPPs were meant to stop.

Beltrame had long pleaded for money for "phase two" of the pacification plan, in which the government was supposed to fund schools and clinics in the favelas in an effort to turn short-term security gains into long-term ones.

Violent crime has been on the rise in Rio in recent months, exacerbated by a severe budget crisis.

The state security budget was cut by 30 percent this year.