Rio governor: rising police killings 'normal,' will continue

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Rio governor: rising police killings 'normal,' will continue
FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2019 file photo, Rio de Janeiro Gov. Wilson Witzel attends the swearing-in ceremony for the new president of state-run oil company Petrobras, Roberto Castello Branco, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Witzel said Tuesday, July 16, 2019, that it is natural that deaths by the police will continue to rise during his term in office as a consequence of a policy of confrontation with terrorists. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Amid a soaring number of police killings in Rio de Janeiro, the state’s tough-talking governor says it is “normal” for the rate to increase and will likely keep rising during his administration.

Gov. Wilson Witzel said the rising number of killings by police in the state of Rio is a consequence of his policy of “confronting terrorists,” as he calls drug trafficking groups.

“It is normal” there are more deaths, said Witzel, who is known for his controversial comments and ties to President Jair Bolsonaro.

Police in Rio killed 714 people in the first five months of his year – almost five a day – 20% more than in 2018, according to official figures.

The governor shrugged off the increase, saying it is due to police “hitting hard” at criminals.