Police Crack Down on São Paulo Slum After Murders

By Dialogo
November 01, 2012

Brazilian police have launched a major anti-crime operation at a huge slum following at least 40 murders in the São Paulo area, including the apparent execution of several police officers.

“Operation Saturation,” which kicked off on October 29 in and around the city’s southern Paraisopolis favela of 80,000 people is aimed at “choking off soaring drug trafficking” and reduce the number of robberies and thefts, said State Secretary for Public Security Antonio Ferreira Pinto.

Some 600 heavily-armed members of the state Military Police’s shock battalion – a strategic quick-reaction force – have been deployed to comb the area, adjacent to the posh Morumbi district.

“The objective is to fight organized crime, destroy its structure,” Major Alexandre Gasparian, who supervises the operation, told AFP at his command post outside the Morumbi stadium early on October 30.

He said the crackdown would last for an “undetermined period of time” and would be extended to other districts of this huge metropolis of 20 million people that is also Brazil’s business capital.

On October 29 alone, at least 10 people were gunned down in São Paulo and another in nearby São Bernardo do Campo, most of them by assailants in cars or on motorcyles.

In September, the number of area murders jumped to 144, up from 71 during the same month last year, and at least 40 have died in shootings since October 25, according to state public security figures.

And more than 80 police officers have been executed in the region this year, most of them ambushed while off duty.

Many of these police killings have been followed by the indiscriminate shooting deaths of suspected drug traffickers or robbers, which families of the victims claim, without proof, were retaliation by military police.

Gasparian told AFP that since the operation began, police arrested two people, seized 125 kilograms of marijuana, 10 kilograms of cocaine, 50 packs of synthetic drugs and five illegal firearms.

By the following morning, it was business as usual on Rua Doutor Laerte Setubal, the main avenue in Paraisopolis, as military police manned 12 checkpoints in the favela.

The slum is a beehive of construction activity as homes are being upgraded in a clear sign of rising prosperity among residents.

“We don’t have any major problems here. It’s safe. There is even dancing at night: Funk, Pagode, Samba. You won’t get into trouble unless you are really looking for it,” said Valeria Silva, 30.