Gangster Attacks Create Terror during “Run for Peace”

Gangster Attacks Create Terror during “Run for Peace”

By Dialogo
June 03, 2013

According to a well-known military saying, “the price of freedom is constant surveillance.” The Run for Peace, held in late May from Rio de Janeiro’s Complexo da Penha to neighboring Complexo do Alemão, was originally an initiative of the Brazilian Peacekeeping Force.

The third edition of the race, however, held during the last week of May 2013, was marked by shots fired by traffickers, causing fear among participants and spectators alike. The race was postponed for an hour to allow security procedures to be carried out by Brazilian Police and Special Operations Battalion members.

During the 19-month period when the area remained under the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense it was comprised of Army Soldiers due to an agreement created at the request of then-Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral.

It is impossible to have full control of an area with a 10-mile perimeter, a population of approximately 400,000 people, and an extremely complicated geography, with asymmetric constructions and numerous alleys and small streets. That difference in the work regimen may have encouraged the criminals to take the risk.

In the first two editions, the Army encountered no problems. The work regimen of the Army troops was completely different. A major general led the Peacekeeping Force with teams comprised of officers and legal advisers, as well as doctors, occupying a base in Complexo do Alemão, at an old Coca-Cola factory.

Each complex was under the responsibility of a colonel who commanded a battalion task force, with approximately 850 troops. In addition, there was a cavalry squadron of about 90 Soldiers, which formed the reserve and was under the direct command of the general.

The headcount of the troops was divided into four and had a peculiar rotation system: the first group had a break period away from the area of operations, usually for two days, as well as half-day work days, with a total of three days off; the second group would be in operations or working on logistic activities, and their operational troops were permanently on territory and consisted of 100 men, 24 hours a day in the streets at each of the complexes; the third group would remain on standby, always ready to act; and the last group would rest.

The work shifts consisted of six hours. The Soldiers remained on their feet in the streets under the sun, rain and/or at dawn, wearing a vest and full equipment throughout the entire time. Numerous patrols would try to stop the drug-trafficking activities. In case of additional events, the standby group would head to the streets to participate in the activities, working for up to 12 hours straight.

If the troops were entitled to three days off operations, it was because they had spent at least six days living on base.

One task force occupied Parque Ari Barroso, a park located in Penha, while the other shared the facilities of the old Coca-Cola factory with the general’s team and the cavalry squadron. Another big difference was that the general commander of the Peacekeeping Force, all the staff officers, and both colonels and commanders of the task force battalion lived in the facilities during the peacekeeping operation, under the same regimen as the troops. The work was uninterrupted, 24 hours a day. Practically nobody would finish and leave to go home.

The work regimen of the Peacekeeping Police Units (UPP) was completely different. The work regimen of the police officers was the extreme opposite. For every four police officers, one would work while the others would be off. They worked for 24 hours and rested for 72 hours. It does not take a math genius to realize that they could never have the same massive effect as the Army, even if they used 400 extra men in the area. Besides, 90% of the time the Soldier with highest seniority would become first lieutenant.

The actions that occurred during the event aimed only to promote instability and lack of security. There was no confrontation due to the lack of combat power from the drug dealers. The drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro have been constantly using irregular war techniques, tactics, and procedures. The recruitment of military and former military members with different training backgrounds has been ongoing for approximately three decades; this universe includes paratroopers, marines, and former members of the Haitian contingent.

One of the factors considered for the transfer of the 1st Army Special Forces Battalion was the recruitment of corporals and commando soldiers for drug trafficking. According to some sources, by the end of the 90s, commandos were offered a starting salary of US$ 4,700 to train criminals and coordinate security for the drug lords. The headcount used by the UPPs or the work regimen and the demobilization of the troops with differentiated trainings must be reassessed.

*Fernando Montenegro is Colonel/R1 of the Brazilian Army, Special Forces, Commandos and Paratroopers, Counterterrorism expert.