Rio police seize favela as crime rises ahead of World Cup

March 14, 2014

David Biller – Bloomberg, 3/13/2014

Rio de Janeiro state’s security forces occupied another slum today following a surge in crime in the favelas where it has expanded policing.

Heavily armed police moved into the Vila Kennedy neighborhood in the west of the city this morning, making it the 38th favela taken over since 2008, according to the state security secretariat. There were no reports of gunfire in what culminated six days of operations in other communities.

Brazil’s biggest tourist destination is struggling to stamp out violence ahead of the soccer World Cup that starts in June. Drug traffickers have regained traction in some shantytowns, including one hillside between Ipanema and Copacabana beach, complicating efforts to keep a fragile peace won by building and staffing police stations. Vila Kennedy will now gain its own pacification unit, known as a UPP.

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Brazil tries a softer approach to crime

January 13, 2014

Loretta Chao – Wall Street Journal, 1/12/2014

Sticking her head out of a squad-car window, a young Brazilian police recruit shouts to the passengers of a car in front of her to exit their vehicle.

But she is quickly scolded by her trainer, who tells her to use a megaphone, to speak calmly, address people as “citizens” and to “say please.” “Please,” she tries again, slowly and carefully. “Citizen, exit your vehicle. Please.”

The demonstration was part of an overhaul of Rio de Janeiro’s police academy. The goal: to fix an image many have of a corrupt, violent force that is distrusted by Rio’s own residents, particularly the roughly 1.5 million living in shantytowns, called favelas.

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Brazil police take Rio slums without firing shots

October 7, 2013

The Associated Press, 10/06/2013

Police have occupied a group of adjacent favelas in Rio de Janeiro, the latest slum “pacification” aimed at driving out drug traffickers and improving security in the coastal city.

Col. Luis Castro Menezes, commander of the military police in Rio, says not a single shot was fired during the 50-minute operation Sunday involving 590 police officers and 180 military troops in the Lins de Vasconcelos slums in the city’s north. The slums include 12 communities with about 15,000 inhabitants.

Authorities plan to install two permanent police stations in the slums as part of the city’s “pacification” program.

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Hackers in Brazil invade site of Rio governor’s party, urge clarity in July disappearance

August 13, 2013

Associated Press, 08/12/2013

Hackers have invaded the website of the embattled Rio de Janeiro governor’s party and posted a message calling for light to be shed on a bricklayer’s disappearance.

In their posting Monday, Brazil’s Anonymous chapter urged Gov. Sergio Cabral to get to the bottom of the July 15 disappearance of Amarildo de Souza, who was last seen in police custody.

Souza’s disappearance from Rio’s Rocinha slum has become a hot-button issue in Brazil, further fueling protests against Cabral that have been raging occasionally since June.

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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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Nine killed in Brazil slum violence

June 26, 2013

Al Jazeera, 06/26/2013

At least nine people, including a police officer, have been killed in the Nova Holanda favela in Rio de Janeiro, authorities have said.

Authorities said on Tuesday the deaths occurred following a gun battle between police officers and criminals taking advantage of protests sweeping through the city to loot and steal.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Adam Raney, reporting from the favela, said he saw blood splattered on the walls of the homes of the dead.

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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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Problems in pacifying Rio de Janeiro slums

May 1, 2012

Juliana Barbassa – The Miami Herald/AP, 05/01/2012

Jose Martins de Oliveira has lived with plenty of weapons and violence during his 45 years in the sprawling hillside shantytown of Rocinha. For most of that time, it was drug traffickers who controlled the giant slum with brutal force.

Now, it’s the police he’s worried about.

Since November, several police officers sent in to save the neighborhood have been accused of taking bribes. Another was murdered in a shootout. And just last week, three were charged with rape.

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Rio slum is ‘pacified’ in advance of games

November 14, 2011

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 11/13/2011

The military operation did little to disturb life in the slum, where authorities did not fire a single shot. Photo credit: Mauricio Lima/The New York Times

About 3,000 police officers and soldiers moved into one of the largest slums here on Sunday in a pivotal effort by the government to assert control over lawless areas of the city ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics.

In an operation that began before dawn, military helicopters buzzed the sky, and tanks rolled through the narrow streets of the Rocinha slum. Elite police squads patrolled the alleys, and snipers perched on rooftops.

The authorities said the occupation was an effort at the “pacification” of the sprawling slum, or favela, and it was carried out peacefully. By early Sunday evening, the police, accompanied by contingents from the Brazilian Army and Navy, had not fired a shot.

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Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora: The Honeymoon is Over

September 28, 2011

 Andrew Fishman - Rio Radar, 09/28/2011

Linha Vermelha, Zona Norte, Rio de Janeiro

The initial idea behind Rio Radar was to create a simple, easily accessible English-language resource about public security in Rio de Janeiro that agglomerated Portuguese-language voices and sources with a minimal imposition of my own voice and biases. After nine months living in Rio de Janeiro, the grant that made Rio Radar possible is coming to an end and I will be returning to Washington DC. Rio Radar will mostly likely continue to produce content with the help of Zoë Roller and Katie Judd, but I have decided to break the model and write a summary analysis of what I’ve ascertained about public security in Rio de Janeiro from all of the research, articles, conversations, and interviews that I have consumed over the past year. Modern public security issues in Rio de Janeiro could fill a small library, so I will try to summarize as best I can and focus mainly on “pacification.”

“We are not occupying favela. Criminals occupy, we are retaking these areas that were occupied by these marginal figures and returning them to the honest residents. The UPPs will remain in the communities forever.”

–Gov. Sérgio Cabral

The four major concepts in Rio’s current public security situation are: corruption, militias, drug trafficking, and Police Pacification Units (UPPs). While corruption appears to be the most prolific and troubling problem, militias the fastest growing, and drug trafficking the most ostensive and subversive, from 2008-10, the UPPs garnered the most media attention domestically and internationally because of their novelty and because of bold claims by Governor Cabral, Security Secretary Beltrame, and other establishment voices. As Secretary Beltrame said, “The idea is simple: to reestablish control over territories lost to traffic dealers.” And what better excuse is there to lubricate the lethargic gears of bureaucracy than the arrival of the two largest sporting events in the world in a six to eight year purview?

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