Open for business: the pacification of Brazil’s favelas

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

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”

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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Brazilian cameraman killed in Rio shoot-out during police drugs raid

Tom Phillips – Guardian, 11/06/2011

A Brazilian journalist mourns the death of his colleague Gelson Domingos da Silva, shot during a police operation against drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro. Photograph: Fernando Quevedo/Agencia O Globo/EPA

A Brazilian television cameraman has been killed while filming an intense shoot-out between police and drug traffickers that claimed at least four other lives in Rio de Janeiro.

Gelson Domingos da Silva, an experienced crime photographer working for the Bandeirantes TV network, was reportedly hit in the chest by a high-calibre rifle shot while covering a dawn special forces raid on the Antares favela in western Rio.

One photograph published in the Brazilian media showed Domingos, 46, moments before he was shot, crouching behind two rifle-toting military policemen and a roadblock improvised from a tree trunk. A second photograph showed the cameraman’s lifeless body in a police car.

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In the hills of Rio, shantytowns get a makeover

Juan Forero – NPR, 11/01/2011

Santa Marta is one of the many slums that dot the hillsides of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio, host of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, is now trying to remake these slums, or favelas, long wracked by poverty and violence. Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

On a recent day in Rio de Janeiro, police radios crackle in Providencia, a warren of cinder-block homes and narrow walkways where drugs and violence were once common.

But these days, it’s just routine chatter. All is safe in this favela, one of the hundreds of slums built chock-a-block on the city’s steep hills. A Rio advertising company is leading a tour for its employees and representatives of other companies.

Among those who have come is Raoni Lotar, a 30-year-old Carioca — resident of Rio.

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Rio’s police face reality check in un-pacified favela

Julia Michaels – InSight Crime, 10/26/2011

(InSight Crime)

Brazil’s elite military police are trying to build ties with communities and undo the harm done by officers who allegedly abused residents in Complexo da Mare, a favela which has not yet come under police control, reports blogger Julia Michaels.

Since the 2008 start of Rio’s new public safety policy, BOPE, the military police elite squad, has met with community members, but never like this.

First of all, the cops weren’t even invited. “When we saw you coming in, the first thing we thought was, ‘They’re going to prevent us from meeting’,” said Rubens Casara, a judge active on human rights issues. “The second was, ‘They’re going to try to keep people from making accusations about police behavior’,” he told three elite squad members who came, it turned out, to actually listen and respond to residents.

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Rio’s top cop talks public safety policy, favela pacification program

Julia Michaels – Christian Science Monitor, 10/20/2011

Rio de Janeiro's Security Secretary, Jose Mariano Beltrame, attends a press conference at Justice Court of Rio de Janeiro, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sept. 12. Fabio Motta/Agencia Estado/Newscom/File

Highlights of an extensive Epoca magazine interview published yesterday, with State Public Safety Secretary, Jose Mariano Beltrame, by Ruth de Aquino.

  • Paramilitary gangs, milícias, are the priority now, not drug traffickers. ”Almost every week we arrest a militia member,” Mr. Beltrame said. When a judge who’d been tough on milicianos was gunned down in front of her home this past August, it was instantly clear they’d gone too far. Eleven military police, including a battalion commander, are behind bars now, accused of the killing. The assassination touched off a major shakeup in the military police hierarchy, starting with the chief’s resignation.
  • Rocinha favela will be pacified soon, and its druglord, Nem, may turn himself in. “Bring Nem. Great. It’s just a question of finding a time and place. No problem.”

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