The initiative is part of an effort to combat violence in Rio de Janeiro, a state currently under an Armed Forces-led federal intervention since early 2018.
The state of Rio de Janeiro is under federal intervention since February 2018, with Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) General Walter Souza Braga Netto as its commander. The measure is in response to increasing violence in the state’s inland cities, and in the state capital of Rio de Janeiro, home of the country’s top drug and arms traffickers.
After a series of high-profile missions against criminals, the operation escalated on June 7th, with the largest number of troops since the intervention began. More than 5,000 men, including 4,600 service members and 760 police officers, deployed to six strategic locations in the western zone of Rio de Janeiro. Units used helicopters and Urutu and Guarani armored vehicles to surround the region home to around 200,000 people, including armed traffickers and gangs.
“We anticipate this operation will last a little longer than normal,” said EB Colonel Carlos Frederico Gomes Cinelli, spokesperson for the Federal Intervention Office. The main focus of this intervention is to weaken the Comando Vermelho faction and for the 18th Military Police Battalion to retake control of security in the favela known as Cidade de Deus. Comando Vermelho is one of the biggest Brazilian organized crime groups, controlling a network that extends through several states, from Rio de Janeiro to Amazonas.
While some police and military teams take over the streets of those communities, others block potential criminal escape routes. At the same time, the Civil Police checks criminal records of favela residents and executes court orders.
The 4,600 service members deployed in this operation rotate in groups, Col. Cinelli explained. “The teams [of service members] include all necessary logistics, such as reservists changing shifts or on leave, so the troops are fresh at the beginning of each rotation. So, 4,600 is the sum of several steps in this operation.”
The operation under way in western Rio de Janeiro was coordinated with another security operation in the southern zone, on June 9th, where Rocinha is located. The Armed Forces occupied the favela—known for competing criminal factions of drug traffickers—for a week in 2017, due to fierce confrontations between enemy groups.
The Federal Police joined the operation on June 9th—the first time since the intervention began. The agents’ mission was to execute federal warrants.
“Our objective was to provide temporary support to the [Public] Security Office through the execution of outstanding warrants. There were confrontations when we arrived, and one of the detainees was injured. But no civilians or police were injured. We arrested 16 people, including the member of an important criminal faction,” Col. Cinelli said.
The state’s service members and police officers spread across Rocinha and three other communities in the southern zone, just like in the west, to arrest wanted individuals, clear routes cut off by criminals, and search pedestrians and vehicles. The operation in the southern zone lasted just one day.
The operation in western Rio de Janeiro will continue indefinitely, with an increase in social programs for residents in local communities. “We are past the stabilization phase, and now services are required,” Col. Cinelli said.
On June 9th, the Federal Intervention Office, in partnership with public institutions, provided services such as medical and dental care, document issuance, job resources, and legal advice. Around 11,000 people benefited from the services.
The large-scale operation of the Armed Forces and security forces is the second in western Rio de Janeiro in less than a month. On May 18th, close to 3,500 men completed missions in seven favelas in that area. Service members and police surrounded the area and removed barricades blocking access to some sections of the favelas. According to The Public Affairs Office of the Eastern Military Command, authorities also carried out random searches of people and vehicles.
On May 19th, day two of the operation, the top drug trafficker from the Barão community, known as Da Russa, wanted for two years, was killed in a confrontation with military police. Since the federal intervention began in February, the Armed Forces carried out a total of 51 operations in the state of Rio de Janeiro, most with police support. In addition to arresting criminal suspects, authorities seized 185 rifles, weapons, and drugs during the operations.