Rio’s favela dwellers fight to stave off evictions in runup to Brazil World Cup

January 17, 2014

Joe Griffin – The Guardian, 1/17/2014

A steep climb leads to the top of the Santa Marta favela in Rio de Janeiro, where the statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible to the right and the ocean can be seen over the roofs of hundreds of homes below. The residents of the cluster of houses on the summit, O Pico, surely have one of the best views in Rio. But they are fighting efforts to evict them and demolish homes that the city says are in an area of risk.

“For years, the authorities did nothing when it was so dangerous to live here. Now that the area is finally safe, they want us to move out,” says resident Veronica Mora, gesturing at the view from steps that wind down a narrow alley outside a two-storey brick house that took her family 20 years to build. Many of the houses are draped with banners reading: “No to removals” and “Santa Marta is not for sale”.

Rio officials claim O Pico is vulnerable to landslides, but residents point out that the landslides that did occur and caused deaths in 1966-67 and 1988 affected no one at the summit.

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Brazil police occupy drug-infested Rio slum

August 5, 2013

Associated Foreign Press, 08/05/2013

Some 180 elite Brazilian police officers deployed into a drug-infested slum complex in northern Rio on Monday in order to prepare the way for a permanent presence there.

“We are here to stay,” Rio state governor Sergio Cabral told the daily O Dia.

The Mangueirinha complex, located in the Baixada Fluminense district, is home to 25,000 people and comprises the Corte 8, Sapo, Santuario and Mangueirinha favelas.

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Brazil Slum Raids: Suspected Crack Addicts Rounded Up

October 18, 2012

Juliana Barbassa – Associated Press/Huffington Post, 10/17/2012

A young suspected crack user covers his face as he escorted by a social worker to a waiting van near the Parque Uniao slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Days after police stormed one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous shantytowns to seize back territory long held by a powerful drug dealing organization, city health and welfare workers are working to ease the despair and devastation left behind among hundreds of crack cocaine addicts suddenly without drugs.

Since Sunday, when more than 2,000 heavily armed officers stormed into the Manguinhos and Jacarezinho complexes, crews working with police support by Wednesday had rounded up 231 crack users, and another 67 who had migrated elsewhere looking for the drug.

The area had been Rio’s biggest open-air crack market, known as “cracolandia,” or “crackland,” where hundreds of users bought the drug, consumed it and lingered in shacks and on blankets, picking through trash for recyclables to sell so they could buy more.

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Niterói crime wave linked to Rio UPPs

April 18, 2012

Zoë Roller – Rio Times, 04/18/2012

While the UPP (Police Pacification Unit) program in Rio has had many successes in the past few years confronting drug trafficking in the favelas, the surrounding metropolitan region has seen crime rates rise as criminals flee the city. The number of arrests in outlying areas like Niterói, São Gonçalo and Duque de Caxias has increased significantly, bringing residents to protest.

According to a February 2012 Public Security Institute study, home robberies in Niterói have gone up 285.7 percent compared to the past year. Car break-ins are up 71 percent and muggings are up 13.5 percent, according to the report.

This past Sunday (April 15th) Niterói residents staged several demonstrations demanding more security. Protesters gathered on São Francisco beach, singing the national anthem and holding signs with slogans like “Niterói will not be taken hostage by violence!”, “UPP in Niterói now!” and “We want police on the streets!”


Police corporal killed in Rocinha

April 5, 2012

Sarah de Sainte Croix – Rio Times, 04/05/2012

Rocinha favela of Rio de Janeiro is suffering a recent wave of violence, photo by Charlie J Phillips/Flickr Creative Commons License.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Corporal Rodrigo Alves Cavalcante, a Military Police (PM) officer with the Batalhão de Choque (Shock Batalion), was shot and killed in Rocinha. He becomes the first police officer, and the ninth person in total, to be killed in a growing spree of violence that has swept through the favela community since February.

Rodrigo was one of eight police officers on foot patrol at the top of the community when he was shot in the back and killed.

State Secretary for Security, Jose Mario Beltrame, said on Wednesday that the UPP (Police Pacification Program) in Rocinha would continue regardless of the recent death: “[We] will not remove even a millimeter of the UPP program,” he said.

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UPP commander arrested in Rio

February 22, 2012

Laura Madden – Rio Times, 02/22/2012

Federal Police arrested eleven people last Thursday, February 16th including an ex-commander of the Police Pacification Unit (UPP), accused of involvement in drug trafficking in Morro de São Carlos, a favela in Estácio, Zona Norte (North Zone). According to the Federal Police (PF), ex-commander captain Adjaldo Luiz Piedade, is accused of receiving approximately R$15,000 each week for a period of about six months.

The money is reported to have come from the drug lord known in the community as Peixe (Fish), with whom Piedade negotiated directly.

The arrests are part of an investigation known as Operation Boca Aberta (Open Mouth), which began last year. According to PF, the captain moved police activity around within the slum to facilitate the sale of drugs.

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Counter-insurgency ‘improves’ Brazil’s slums

January 6, 2012

Chris Arsenault – Al Jazeera, 01/04/2012

Brazil's "pacification" police launched an operation to assert government control over the Rochina neighbourhood on November 13. Chris Arsenault

More than a month after “pacifying police units” seized control of Rio’s biggest slum or favela with the help of tanks and helicopters, life seems to be improving for residents of Rocinha. On a sunny afternoon in December, children dart through narrow hillside alleys, butchers hawk chicken meat from side-walk stalls and graffiti artists paint murals around the densely populated urban ghetto.

The crackdown in Rocinha, which saw 3,000 heavily armed police storm into the neighbourhood in November, is part of an ongoing campaign in Brazil to assert state authority in largely lawless favelas as the country prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics two years later.

“Sometimes the bad rap our community gets is fair, it has been violent,” says Rogerio Roque, a former drug dealer who has become a youth worker and anti-violence activist. “Before the crackdown, lots of gunfire could be heard but it is getting better.”

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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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Brazil economist: Rio slum poised for improvement

November 17, 2011

Juliana Barbassa – AP/San Francisco Gate, 11/17/2011

Brazilian navy armored vehicles move into Rocinha shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday Nov. 13, 2011. Brazilian police backed by armored military vehicles have invaded Rio de Janeiro's biggest slum in what experts say it's the most important step yet in bringing security to Rio de Janeiro before it hosts the final matches of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.About 100,000 people live in Rocinha, the biggest drug distribution point in Rio Photo: Silvia Izquierdo / AP

One of the Rio shantytowns taken over by police this week has a population that is younger, less educated and more cut off from state services than other slums — characteristics that present a big opportunity for future financial growth, a leading economist said Wednesday.

If the peace achieved with the takeover of Rocinha is a lasting one, it could provide an opportunity for better services, access to jobs and education for people living in the steep hillside slum straddling some of Rio’s wealthiest neighborhoods, Marcelo Neri said.

The community has little access to state services despite its nearness to such wealth.

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Some lessons after Rocinha’s “Shock of Peace”

November 16, 2011

Michael Kerlin – Rio Times, 11/15/2011

The theater of it all was best summed up by security expert Luiz Eduardo Soares when he dubbed the military helicopters flying over Rocinha “more Coppola than Vietnam.” Indeed, the 3,000 army, navy, and military police troops that rolled into Rocinha on Sunday didn’t fire a single shot—good news after 30 people died in a similar military raid of the Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemao favelas almost exactly a year ago.

But the months to come in Rocinha may not be as simple as the tidy, media-friendly show of force would suggest. The Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemao “pacification” effort bears lessons from last November in Rio’s Zona Norte to this November in the Zona Sul. Amigos dos Amigos, the drug gang that ruled Rocinha until this month, may be gone for now, but, in many ways, the challenge for Rocinha is just beginning.

First, the military and police must communicate a very clear timeline for handover from short-term military and military police forces to the longer-term UPP (Police Pacifying Unit) program that will occupy Rocinha over the coming months and years. Then, they must execute the handover with as much care as they used for the initial invasion.

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