The Invasion of the Rio Slums through a Woman’s Eyes

The Invasion of the Rio Slums through a Woman’s Eyes

By Dialogo
March 08, 2011

From Chile. It is wonderful to see a comment in which a very lovely woman gives her perspective regarding the small but important struggle against the narco-traffic power. Her effort is almost certainly nothing against the forces she faces but it is an example of courage that everyone, men and women, should have against all of the social enemies of today. Why can’t our country implement these measures that, while drastic, are very effective? This woman does what she does because she is single, as soon as she decides to have a family her attitude will change, many women which are in operational groups of the various security forces and military, let’s say that this woman along with her colleagues meet the conditions for the rank that they occupy. Excellent story and example for women in Brazil. Congratulations, Marcos!
At the young age of 11, Flávia Louzada saw her mother, a high school teacher, being shot and murdered by one of her students.

The murderer was never arrested or convicted, and this inspired a thirst for justice in the little girl, who grew up dreaming that one day she would help other people who felt themselves to be victims of injustice, like herself.

Four years ago, after graduating with a degree in physical education, she achieved her goal when she competed for a slot in the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro.

Pretty, careful about her appearance, single, and always accompanied by Zeus, her pit bull, to “scare away the bolder ones,” Private Louzada, of the 16th PMERJ Battalion (in Olaria), was the only woman to go into the slums to participate in the operations to retake Vila Cruzeiro and the Alemão Complex, in November 2010.

To tell what this experience was like, she spoke to Diálogo, which honors its female readers on International Women’s Day by publishing the following interview.

Diálogo – It’s unusual to see a woman as a member of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, participating in anti-drug actions, going into the slums, etc. Why did you decide to participate in retaking Vila Cruzeiro and the Alemão Complex?

Private Louzada – People are kind of surprised when they see me doing everything that the men do. Women, in general, don’t like to participate in operational police actions. I, on the contrary, have always wanted to do just that. Therefore, when I learned about the action in the Alemão Complex, since I was part of the battalion that was going to carry out the assault, I decided to volunteer, even though I hadn’t been selected for the mission.

Diálogo – Why?

Private Louzada – I’ve seen many friends from my battalion dying on the job. I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to do something in their honor, in other words, to return peace and tranquility to a population that had lost them due to drug dealing. I also knew this would go down in the history of the war on drug dealers, and I wanted to be part of it.

Diálogo – How did you deal with the fact that you had to go without food and without other basic necessities in the interior of the slum, while being a target for the bandits’ bullets?

Private Louzada – There were days that I really didn’t have anything to eat, but the worst part was thirst, not hunger. Luckily, every now and then somebody would come by with a bottle of water, and I would ask to take a sip.

Diálogo – What was your participation in retaking the slums?

Private Louzada – I did everything that my colleagues did; in other words, I participated in search actions, searching houses and people, and I was also in the line of fire.

Diálogo – Were you shot?

Private Louzada – Many bullets came in my direction, but I ended up being struck on the leg by grenade shrapnel. I was injured from Wednesday until Saturday, when I was finally able to go to the doctor. I bled quite a bit and suffered from the pain, but it was worth it. The next day, I went back into the slum to continue with the mission.

Diálogo – The impression given to the public was that the criminals did not fight back …

Private Louzada – At the beginning, they did fight back. The injury to my leg happened during a confrontation with the drug dealers in an area called Zacaria. They used rifles and other heavy weapons, like the grenade whose shrapnel hit me. It was only after the intervention of the Armed Forces that things started to become calmer, and the bandits fled practically without fighting back.

Diálogo – What were the tensest moment and the most emotional moment during the operation?

Private Louzada – The tensest moment was during the occupation of Vila Cruzeiro, on Wednesday, due to the confrontation I mentioned. The most emotional moment was on Sunday night, after the occupation was practically complete. The reaction from the residents was fantastic.

Diálogo – Did it help that there was a woman present at that moment?

Private Louzada – I believe so. I sensed that the residents were calmer and more relaxed when they saw a woman participating in all that. I believe that up there, contact with them was friendlier. Many people were thanking us. They explained that for years they had been in the hands of the drug dealers, and that now they felt free. For them, hope for better days and for peace had been reborn.