Brazilian police have begun an operation to clear Rio de Janeiro’s biggest slum, Rocinha, of drug gangs.
Elite police units backed by armoured military vehicles and helicopters moved into the slum before dawn, the Associated Press reports.
Alleged Rocinha drugs kingpin Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes was arrested trying to flee the slum on Thursday.
Police are trying to clear Rio’s shantytowns of drug gangs ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
Since 2008, they have occupied some 20 slums, or favelas, to drive out the dealers who controlled the areas.
Police had openly announced their plan to move into Rocinha – which is officially home to some 70,000 people, although is widely thought to have considerably more residents.
Some of the favela’s residents left the area on Wednesday, as police began setting up checkpoints at entrances to the slum district, which is located close to tourist areas in Rio’s south zone.
Source: BBC News Read more
Another report on The Guardian
Home to more than 70,000, Rocinha is controlled by drug taffickers and other criminal elements. Taxi drivers have to pay the drug dealers bribes to operate in the area. Criminals run gatonet (clandestine cable TV), control the sale of domestic gas and run bingo machines.
The Policia Militar (Rio’s regular police force) are paid bribes to ‘turn the other way.’
For many kidnapped by the gangs and taken to the favela, it is the end of the road and they are never seen again. It is an urban war.
Criminals from Rocinha attack Vidigal, just across the hill, for control of drug selling areas, and Vidigal retaliate.
The moradores (residents) are subjected to running gun battles in the streets between rival gangs and between the gangs and the police. It is a place where the bala perdida (stray bullet) is merely a fact of life, many innocents have become victims.
Life for the average person is fraught with danger on a daily basis.
This attempt by the police with the help of the military is another in the on-going battle against the gangs, drug dealers and criminals in Rio’s most violent settings. The setting up of the UPP (Unidade Pacificadora da Policia – Police Pacification Unit) in Rocinha is the latest of 20 such units around Rio trying to bring some law and order and a dignified life to the residents.
These are not simply an occupation by police, but they are also bringing social services, justice, education, community projects and medical posts that the people have been denied by the criminals. Initially services are provided from Council tents as soon as possible, even before they set up permanent offices.
In the past even the kids cannot play safely on the streets, you could not have a family party without ‘permission’ of these dregs, schools were frequently shut because of the kid’s safety, the neighbourhoods were repressed, divided and isolated. The UPPs have brought an end to this reign of terror where they have been successful. Not all have been a total success, a few of the UPPs have seen corruption, but once discovered severe steps have been taken to rectify the situation quickly.
In 2014 Rio is host to many of the games in the FIFA World Cup and again in 2016 hosts the Olympic Games. The majority of UPPs have been set up in favelas surrounding the famous Maracanã Stadium to ensure visitor safety for these major international events.
Rio de Janeiro was once in the Top 10 of the world’s most dangerous cities, at No. 8 (It might be noted that from Nos. 1 – 7 included six US cities with Medellin in Colombia as No. 1). Rio’s reputation in the world of tourism was not good; well, brilliant from the point of view of attractions, but shocking when it came to the fact of tourists being robbed. This is all changing.
My main worry, is that criminals do not stop being criminals just because you have dislocated them. What will they turn to next to supplement their incomes?