Police, Soldiers Take Over Rio Slum

By Dialogo
June 21, 2011

Hundreds of Brazilian police and soldiers backed by helicopters and armored vehicles swept in on 19 June to take over a crime-ridden Rio slum as part of a pacification plan ahead of the football World Cup in 2014.

More than 100 marines and 160 elite police officers took part in the operation in the hillside Mangueira neighborhood, which went off without a shot being fired, a police spokesman said.

Mangueira is located near Rio’s famed Macarana football stadium, and is home to more than a million people as well as one of the city’s oldest samba schools.

The pre-announced operation began just after dawn with armored personnel carriers thundering up the slum’s steep roads and helicopters clattering overhead, as security forces on foot followed with arms at the ready.

An hour and a half later, two of the vehicles reached the highest point of the slum. The forces met no resistance.

Drug gangs which had been controlling the district had fled well in advance.

The operation was the final link in a “security perimeter” authorities have set up around Maracana stadium, which will play host to the World Cup final, to be watched by more than 700 million television viewers around the world.

It will also be a venue for sports featuring in the 2016 Olympic Games, which Rio will also host.

Rio authorities have in the past three years been pushing steadily into several slums to stamp out nests of crime and violence ahead of the two big sporting events.

Unlike in previous years, when the police raided the neighborhoods only to exit soon after, leaving a vacuum quickly filled by returning gangs, now they are setting up local posts in the slums to maintain control.

US President Barack Obama highlighted the success of the pacification operations during a March visit to one of Rio’s best-known slums, City of God.

To date, more than 20 slums have been cleared of criminal gangs.