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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Military police take back Rio slums in bid to curb violence before World Cup

Janet Tappin Coelho, Rio de Janeiro

Published 31/03/2014 | 02:30

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A Brazilian military police officer patrols after entering the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest 'favela' complexes in Rio
A Brazilian military police officer patrols after entering the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest 'favela' complexes in Rio
BOPE, the military police elite troop battalion, enter the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest 'favela' complexes in Rio
BOPE, the military police elite troop battalion, enter the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest 'favela' complexes in Rio
BOPE, the military police elite troop battalion, enter the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest 'favela' complexes in Rio
BOPE, the military police elite troop battalion, enter the unpacified Complexo da Mare, one of the largest 'favela' complexes in Rio

It took just 15 minutes for more than 1,000 military police to occupy one of the most violent shanty towns in Rio de Janeiro, as dawn was breaking yesterday morning.

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Not one shot was fired during the operation to bring peace to the slum as 21 armoured vehicles rolled into the sprawling favela in the north of Rio.

They were accompanied by trucks deploying hundreds of police patrols, pick-ups carrying more officers with weapons held aloft, the mounted regiment and the dog unit.

More than 130,000 people live in the Complexo do Mare, which has for years been ruled by ruthless drug-trafficking gangs.

With the World Cup just two months away, the favelas represent the biggest security crisis facing Rio since it launched the police pacification units (UPPs) programme five years ago. The initiative reclaims lawless territory ruled by drug traffickers in the capital's slums and replaces it with a police presence.

Authorities are hoping to prevent violence in the city's worst favelas affecting the city during the World Cup, threatening the hundreds of thousands of visitors.

For the past 10 days, the slum lords and criminal elements have been under siege as Rio's governor, Sergio Cabral, finally admitted the city needed help to restore law and order. He called on Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff to send in the army.

Thousands of troops are expected to arrive this week to continue the peace process, and will stay indefinitely.

ATTACKS

The decision to take control of Complexo do Mare followed weeks of attacks on officers patrolling the city's shanty towns.

Mr Cabral said of the attacks on police: "This is a clear attempt (by drug traffickers) to demoralise us, to discredit the pacification process and reclaim the occupied territories that are now held by the police. The (criminals) want us to retreat. But we will push forward and will not be deterred."

More than 100 people have been arrested in Mare. Hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, marijuana and pills have been seized, along with ammunition and stolen motorbikes.

Aiming to reassure residents, Mr Cabral issued a televised message. "This is a permanent message of security," he said.

"Police are here to help you and to do their work within the law. The security is here to stay."

The operation was welcomed by residents, who have long suffered under the grip of drug gangs. (© Independent News Service)

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