Brazil Boosts Security in “Pacified” District

July 22, 2014

Latin American Herald Tribune, 7/22/2014

Brazilian authorities on Monday strengthened security in a cluster of Rio de Janeiro shantytowns that were officially pacified four years ago after decades as a bastion of drug traffickers.

The additional police presence follows a violent weekend.

A police officer was wounded, two vehicles were burned and a police base was attacked on Sunday night by suspected drug dealers who evidently were acting in reprisal for the death of a young man during a gunfight and the jailing of one of their associates, Rio state police said.

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In shadow of Brazil World Cup, a nonprofit builds fields of hope

July 14, 2014

Rick Maese – The Washington Post, 7/11/2014

 From afar, the Complexo do Alemão favela looks like Legos dropped from the sky, a mountain of small building blocks stacked one atop another in no discernible pattern. With an estimated population of at least 100,000 people, the favela is one of Rio’s largest. Historically, it has also been one of its most dangerous.

The endless maze of small boxy homes and narrow pathways is located about 5 ½ miles from the famed Maracana stadium, site of the World Cup’s title match Sunday. But soccer isn’t that far away. In fact, it’s never been closer.

A nonprofit co-founded by Washington native Drew Chafetz is responsible for the favela’s giant year-old soccer field with red fencing wrapping around the perimeter. At the same time Brazil’s municipal governments and soccer officials scrambled to construct and refurbish a dozen World Cup stadiums, Chafetz and his modest outfit have been busy building their own fields around Brazil, working with considerably smaller budgets and with sights set on an impact that will continue to be felt long after this World Cup.

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Rio, the olympic city, is a hub for progress in Brazil

June 19, 2013

Maria Paula Schmidt Carvalho – Quarterly Americas, 06/19/2013

If you walk today through Complexo do Alemão—an enormous Rio de Janeiro shantytown, or favela, that was once the frequent scene of gun battles—you can see the changes.  Last Christmas eve, the Brazilian Symphony performed a classical music concert in the community that, until recently, was so dangerous that police were afraid to enter it. People in the neighborhood, many of whom had never been to a concert before, were delighted.

To reach the neighborhood, you can now take the newly-installed cable car that resembles a gondola at an Alpine ski resort. Not only does it spare you the long climb in hot December weather—it offers a terrific view high above the 3.5 square kilometer neighborhood where 69,000 people live. The glass window reveals a giant and densely populated favela composed of poor houses unevenly distributed along narrow streets and small corridors. It is a unique and complex human map of haphazard paths and supply lines for water, electricity and gas.

The new cable car—which cost the Brazilian public $105 million—is part of the Brazilian federal government’s Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (Growth Acceleration Program—PAC), a huge urbanization project that has taken place in Rio’s poor communities. The cable car was constructed to make Complexo do Alemão more accessible. “The lift is a blessing for the ones who live at the top of the community. Now we feel free,” said Teresinha Maria de Oliveira, a washerwoman who has lived in the favela for decades.

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Brazil deploys “junior firefighters” to snuff out dengue

February 2, 2012

Fabiana Frayssinet – IPS, 02/01/2012

Racing for Peace in the Rocinha favela, one of the many creative activities organised under the campaign against dengue fever. Credit:Rio de Janeiro Health Secretariat

The government of the state of Rio de Janeiro is unveiling a battery of creative tactics to engage the population in the battle against dengue fever, which is threatening to reach unprecedented epidemic proportions as a new virus strain hits Brazil.

School is out for the austral summer and the options in Rio’s Complexo do Alemão favela (shantytown) are either “hanging out in the street” or gearing up to combat dengue, says Miguel Terto, a 14-year- old aspiring firefighter.

“It gives us something different to do, but it also encourages us to save lives,” the teenager told IPS. Terto lives in one of the 20 favelas of the city of Rio de Janeiro – the capital of the state – that underwent a pacification process last year.

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Open for business: the pacification of Brazil’s favelas

January 4, 2012

Knowledge@Wharton, 01/03/2012

Dawn on November 28, 2010. The Brazilian Special Forces, Military Police, BOPE (Police Special Operations Unit), Forestry Police, Civil Police, Federal Police and Army Parachute Brigade surrounded the Complexo do Alemão, one of Brazil’s largest shanty-town communities, with an estimated population of 150,000 and site of the country’s most vicious drug wars. This coordinated military effort succeeded in securing the premises within two hours, as police arrested 30 warranted criminals and seized more than 10 tons of narcotics and weapons. Residents raised the national and state flags to claim victory in the “War of Rio de Janeiro.” The Complexo do Alemão, which had been responsible for receiving and distributing 90% of the drugs in Rio de Janeiro, was now in the hands of government security forces.

These days, just a few miles north of the multimillion-dollar apartments of Leblon, not far from Ipanema beach, the former “microwaves” of the Complexo do Alemão are still visible. These are intersections where, only a year before, gangs “cooked” their victims in stacks of rubber tires. The average family in this once war-torn favela earns 257 reais (US$140) a month (more than three times less than the rest of Rio de Janeiro). Twenty-nine percent of its residents bring home less than the minimum wage, and the average resident of this community expects to live nine years less than his “Carioca” counterpart. Part of this stems from an infant mortality rate five times higher than that of the city’s wealthy Southern Zone. The other part comes from the favela’s long history of violence and poverty.

The Origins of the Complexo do Alemão

Soon after World War I, Leonard Kaczarkiewicz migrated to Brazil from Poland in search of a new beginning. He purchased land just north of central Rio de Janeiro to build a plantation. The local workers thought he was German, and the entire area soon became known as the Complexo do Alemão — the German’s compound.

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Favela reporters censored by army, wave of attacks on regional journalists

October 19, 2011

Reporters Without Borders, 10/19/2011

The army’s attempts to “pacify” and secure Brazil’s favelas and crack down on their drug traffickers before the 2014 Football World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games are raising concern about the accompanying violations of human rights and civil liberties in these communities, including the rights of their own journalists.

News reporting by the residents of these poor neighbourhoods should enjoy the same safety guarantees and freedom from censorship as reporting by Brazil’s mainstream media.

A series of incidents this month in Complexo do Alemão, a conglomeration of 13 favelas in Rio de Janeiro, has set a disturbing precedent and highlighted a reluctance on the part of the military to accept grass-roots reporting.

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Drug gangs swap pistols and murder for popcorn and movies

October 17, 2011

Geoffrey Macnab – The Independent, 10/17/2011

The popular picturehouse is putting DVD pirates out of business. Credit: Geoffrey Macnab

Complexo do Alemao, one of the biggest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, used to be known more for drug trafficking than as a place to watch films. This was a no-go area for the police for years – a shantytown full of narrow streets and boarded-up houses, where life resembled something out of Fernando Meirelles’ award-winning film, City Of God.

Now, astonishingly, the favela is home to CineCarioca – one of the most successful cinemas in Brazil.

Last week, during the Rio Film Festival, dignitaries, soap stars and foreign guests gathered in Alemao for the launch of the festival’s “Free Cinema” programme, an initiative to take movies to places they rarely reach. As they arrived, kids were playing football and street traders were out in force. The only signs of a violent past were the armed troops patrolling the perimeter.

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