Rio police claim victory over slum gangs
Rio police backed by helicopters and armoured vehicles invaded a shantytown complex long held by traffickers yesterday, quickly taking over the key drug gang stronghold in a historic victory meant to help make the city safe for the 2016 Olympics.
Officers poured into the Alemao slum complex just after sunrise amid heavy fire, with helicopters flying low in support. But police encountered less resistance than expected.
"We won," said Mario Sergio Duarte, head of Rio state's military police. "We brought freedom to the residents of Alemao."
The operation was crucial to the city's campaign to push criminals out of slums where they have ruled with impunity, in an effort to secure Rio before it hosts World Cup matches in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics.
Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral told Globo TV that the campaign will go forward: "We will continue to conquer more territories and give peace to our citizens and the foreign visitors who come here."
The invasion came after gangs unleashed a week of violence in the city of six million, with more than 100 vehicles set on fire -- many in protest against police raids of the past two years -- and at least 35 deaths, mostly of suspected traffickers.
Police said they captured large amounts of weapons, ammunition and drugs in the complex, which is home to at least 85,000 people.