The Weapons Used During the Occupation of the Favelas in Rio

By Dialogo
December 30, 2010

This shows that government power used immediately brings positive results to the society suffering at the hands of bandits stealing the peace of the citizens. Congratulations to the Government of Rio. And may God protect all officers who are on mission. May the flag of peace be present. Wander. Belém. Pará
The end of November and beginning of December were a unique moment for the population of Rio de Janeiro: at first, criminals who had been dislodged from several important domains frightened the population with several attacks out on the streets, using an explicitly terrorist modus operandi. Subsequently, imagining themselves very powerful in dominating a large area – the occupation of which, overly costly in terms of manpower and resources, was not expected so soon – they thought they could challenge the forces of the state. After one week, in an operation that brought together police and military personnel, the criminals were literally put to flight and suffered an unprecedented loss in terms of members arrested (and killed), as well as weapons and drugs seized.

As in a guerrilla war, the drug traffickers held that Leopoldina slum area as a liberated area, and they did not expect that the state, aware of the logistical problems in carrying out large-scale police operations in the neighborhood, would respond to the provocation of numerous well-armed bandits who, from high above, showed themselves off to the TV cameras.

The traffickers were mistaken in their evaluation, and in less than twenty-four hours, numerous elite police officers started to make incursions against the criminals’ redoubts in Vila Cruzeiro, providentially transported in M-113 and LVTP-7 armored vehicles belonging to the Brazilian Marine Corps.

The tracked vehicles belonging to the Marines, infinitely more mobile than the “Caveirões” or “skulls,” police armored vehicles, climbed the slopes, overcame the obstacles placed in the streets by the traffickers, and carried the police officers safely, despite a considerable volume of shots coming from the criminals that left marks on the vehicles.

The inadequacy of our police’s armored transport vehicles has been known for a long time, and certainly the success of the operation would have been compromised without the participations of the Navy’s armored vehicles.

Oddly, the same M-113s that were used by the Marines to transport the BOPE (the Police Special Operations Battalion) are part of the equipment of numerous police forces in the United States and in other countries as well, such as the Netherlands. The difference is that while for any other police force, exposure to a large volume of shots is an occasional episode (the reason why they use few of these armored military vehicles), in Rio de Janeiro, regular police units are fighting criminals armed with rifles, grenades, and machine guns practically everywhere; therefore, they all need armored vehicles for transporting their personnel, who need to be prepared to be shot at several times during each excursion.

It is striking that, although the use of military armored vehicles impressed the population a great deal and surprised the bandits as well, the drug traffickers took no more elaborate defensive actions that might have posed a risk to the vehicles and their occupants.

Once more, the criminals demonstrated the elementary level of their technology and their tactical disorganization. Despite having a highly lethal arsenal, they were incapable of using even the weapons they had in their hands. Besides the weapons they showed off in the television networks’ long-distance camera footage, the criminals held a significant quantity of armaments that could have made the police invasion far more costly.

Besides older weapons such as CZ (Mauser-style) repeating rifles, ZB-ZV medium machine guns (probably from Bolivia), different models of air-cooled .30-caliber (7.62×63) Browning machine guns, Madsen machine guns, .30-caliber (7.62×63) Browning automatic rifles (BAR), and American Garand rifles (in various conditions), there were also seized AK-47/AKM rifles, AR-15/M-16/M-4s (in various configurations and conditions), Ruger Mini-14s, HK G-3s, Steyr AUGs, SIG-550s, M1 carbines, FMK-3 Argentine submachine guns, clandestinely made submachine guns, Thompson M1s (.45 ACP caliber), and even an extremely rare MAT-49 (9×19 caliber) from France.

Several modern pistols were seized, especially Glocks, but the seized model that attracted the most attention was a Desert Eagle pistol, .50 AE caliber. I honestly cannot come up with a use for such a pistol, a true hand cannon, more powerful than a .44 Magnum. The result obtained from it (grasping it with some difficulty and dealing with a very strong recoil) could be very well obtained with a shot from an AK-47. A weapon like this, with expensive and difficult-to-obtain ammunition, serves more for a show of power by some criminal leader.

A large diversity of weapons was seized, which according to what we know, the criminals acquired as purchases of opportunity, independent of whether they knew how to use them or not. Not uncommonly, the suppliers of different factions are the same, and there are cases in which purchases are made merely to deny the equipment to a rival.

During the seizures, it was noticed that the storage of these guns was, most of the time, poor, as well as that of the large supply of ammunition. I was shocked by the quantity of armor-piercing .30-caliber (7.26×63) ammunition. There were many clips of such ammunition for Garand rifles. Many of the weapons used were already defective or with damaged parts. Unfortunately, it was not possible to examine them in greater detail in order to determine how many and which ones were really in working condition; on the other hand, if out of five machine guns, one works well, that would already give the criminals a formidable amount of firepower.

A ZB-ZV machine gun shooting armor-piercing bullets would be a headache even for the Marines in their M-113s. In the same way, the UH-1 belonging to the PCERJ (the Rio de Janeiro State Civil Police), misleadingly described as a “flying tank,” would have to use more caution during its overflights.

The seizures also did not fail to include the empty fiber tubes (not rechargeable) of the Swedish anti-tank AT-4, as well as an old 3.5” bazooka made in the U.S. that was in such good condition that it looked like it had been taken from a museum. Funny thing that that no soldiers or marines serving in the Brazilian Armed Forces today have had the opportunity to operate this weapon, given how long it has been since it was abandoned by the EB (the Brazilian Army) and the CFN (the Marine Corps)! I did not see ammunition for this weapon, although ammunition for this kind of bazooka has been found in Rio before. An empty metallic tube from an M-72 rocket launcher (66 mm LAW) was also found, hidden in a trash can. This weapon (capable of penetrating the armor of the tracked vehicles used in the operation) has not been found, as of today, but it really is concerning, since there is a long history of seizures of working examples in conjunction with criminal arrests, in Rio de Janeiro and in other Brazilian cities.

The sight of all this seized material and the use our criminals make of it really helps to calm our fears, although I do not imagine that they will remain at this elementary level for the rest of their lives. We must not lay back counting on that.





Share