A thousand police officers, with drones and sniffer dogs, were deployed on Monday for a vast police operation against a drug trafficking gang in three favelas in Rio de Janeiro, hit by a wave of violence.
The governor of the state of Rio, Claudio Castro, described in a press release as a “success” the first day of this operation to fight drug trafficking, which began Monday morning in the Maré Complex, in Vila Cruzeiro and in the City of God.
These three neighborhoods, in the northern and western areas of Brazil’s second largest city, are considered strongholds of Comando Vermelho, Rio’s largest drug trafficking organization.
“We want to attack this criminal faction, which is trying to expand its territory and stir up conflicts with other criminal organizations,” explained the head of the civil police of the state of Rio, Renato Torres, during a press conference.
Mr. Castro, for his part, indicated that this first day had “already caused damage of at least 12 million reais (3.2 million Canadian dollars) to the criminal factions”.
So far, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported. Only one police officer was lightly injured when two helicopters flying over Vila Cruzeiro were hit by gunfire, according to the government.
According to a new assessment of the operation, the latest in a long series in recent years in the favelas, the local government announced the arrest of nine people and said it had seized “around 100 kg of cocaine paste, a half a ton of cannabis and other synthetic drugs”, 33 vehicles, weapons and cell phones.
Assault rifles in hand, the agents patrolled the narrow, almost empty streets during this sting operation. Some police officers had their faces covered, others were accompanied by detection dogs.
Law enforcement also used drones equipped with facial recognition technology that send images in real time to the Rio police checkpoint.
In recent weeks, Rio has experienced several serious episodes of violence.
Three Brazilian doctors who came for a conference were killed Thursday night in a beach bar in the affluent district of Barra da Tijuca.
The police consider that they could have been killed by “mistake” against a backdrop of struggle between gangs and parapolice militias in this district of the western zone.
After this triple homicide, four bodies were discovered, including that of one of the suspects in the crime. The police believe that those who “mistakenly” killed the victims were then executed on the orders of a “court” of the trafficking gang.
Furthermore, in images recently broadcast by the TV Globo channel, we saw traffickers armed with rifles training in guerrilla tactics on land in the Maré Complex.
In response to the wave of violence, in Rio but also in the state of Bahia, in the northeast of the country, the government of left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced the sending of additional police resources, particularly humans, in these two territories.
Rio de Janeiro, a tourist hotspot in Brazil, has been plagued by gang warfare for decades.
The inhabitants of favelas, very densely populated poor neighborhoods, experience violence on a daily basis, due to clashes between rival gangs or bloody raids by the police.
In August, one of these operations left at least nine dead in the Penha Complex, which includes among others the Vila Cruzeiro favela, where another police raid resulted in 25 deaths last year.
According to security specialists, these heavy-handed methods exact a heavy toll on the population without really undermining the influence of organized crime.
Some popular neighborhoods in Rio are also under the yoke of militias, notably made up of corrupt police officers. They hold the population to ransom and clandestinely exploit security, transport and even Internet services.