In rough slum, Brazil’s police try soft touch

Alexei Barrionuevo – New York Times, 10/10/2010

Leonardo Bento longed for vengeance after a policeman killed his brother five years ago. So when he heard that the new “peace police” force in the City of God slum was offering free karate classes, Mr. Bento signed up, hoping he would at least get to beat up the karate instructor.

But the unexpected happened. Eduardo da Silva, the police instructor, won him over with humor and a handshake. “I began to realize that the policeman in front of me was just a human being and not the monster I had imagined in my head,” Mr. Bento, 22, said.

Years of hate and mistrust are thawing in some of Rio’s most violent slums. Pushed to alleviate security concerns before the city’s double-billing on the international stage — the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games — Rio officials have embarked on an ambitious plan to wrest control of the slums, or favelas, from ruthless drug gangs who ruled for years with big guns and abject terror.

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