Brazilian Army Turns Over Control of Shantytown to the Police

The Brazilian Army has completely withdrawn from the Alemão shantytown complex in Rio de Janeiro, occupied in an impressive Military operation a year and a half ago, and security in this former bastion of drug trafficking has been taken over by elite police units starting on June 28.
WRITER-ID | 2 July 2012

Complexo da Penha is another shantytown complex that has been militarized in Brazil in the last year. (Photo: DIÁLOGO/Marcos Ommati)

The Brazilian Army has completely withdrawn from the Alemão shantytown complex in Rio de Janeiro, occupied in an impressive Military operation a year and a half ago, and security in this former bastion of drug trafficking has been taken over by elite police units starting on June 28.

Starting early in the morning on that day, contingents from the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) and the shock troops of the Rio Military Police (PM) arrived at the Vila Cruzeiro shantytown to begin the transfer of security responsibilities.

“Beginning at five in the morning, the PM entered the area and occupied it together with our Military personnel. At 6, a complete replacement was carried out, and our Military personnel were withdrawn,” said Major Marcos Bouças, an Army spokesperson.

The withdrawal of the Military units from the Alemão shantytown complex began in March with the installation of what are known as Police Pacification Units (UPP), which fall under the authority of the PM and were formed to guard the shantytowns, previously controlled by drug traffickers and militias.

In the Alemão complex, inhabited by around 400,000 people, six of the 25 UPPs set up in the approximately 90 reconquered shantytowns are in operation, with plans to increase that number to eight in July.

“A meticulous job of patrolling is being initiated, which consists of checking individuals, vehicles, and locations,” Colonel Federico Caldas, a PM spokesperson, told the Globo television network.

In 2008, the authorities of Rio state, one of the country’s most violent, began a race against the clock to pacify the shantytowns in strategic locations in the city in preparation for the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

There is still a Military presence in several other “pacified” shantytowns, however.

In late November 2010, 2,600 Military personnel and police shock troops, supported by armored cars and helicopters, retook Alemão complex following a week of urban violence that left 37 dead.

Since then, around 1,700 Military personnel from the Army’s peacekeeping forces have been responsible for security in the area.

“The Army’s work was extraordinary, fundamental for us to get to the conditions we’re in here,” Caldas emphasized.

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