This video, recorded by a helicopter-borne TV Globo camera crew flying yesterday over Vila Cruzeiro in the Penha section of Rio, is quite frightening. It shows armed men massing in an alleyway of the favela, jumping off motorcycles as they arrive. Reportedly, the video led authorities to decide to lay siege to the favela today, as part of a broad response to a conflict that according to O Globo has so far left 23 dead in favela gunfighting, 37 burned vehicles, 47 people arrested and 112 detained for questioning. Military police, numbering 17,500 men, are being aided by civil police and highway police, as well as the Brazilian navy.
The video is frightening but a close look and some reflection bring one to the conclusion that the state will soon bring peace back to the streets of the city that is hard at work preparing to host the 2016 Olympics. Here are some thoughts for consideration:
- The men in Vila Cruzeiro are massing in an alleyway. Most of Rio’s favelas suffer from accessibility difficulties. While these have benefited the drug trade, they pose problems for leaders who are organizing large-scale resistance to the police. Note that towards the end of the video, shooting is taking place. A motorcyclist drops his motorcycle and runs for cover while other men shoot in defense. The video shows many heavily armed men, but they are quite obviously on the defensive.
- According to rumor, the drug traffic leaders in Rocinha, now said to be two united gangs, have a weapon that can shoot down a helicopter, as occurred a year ago in Morro dos Macacos. But drug traffickers don’t have helicopters; the police (and the media) do. Drug traffickers must rely on the media, internet and phone and radio communication for their intelligence.
- That communication is heavily monitored by the police. Police corruption still exists and it must be presumed that some information is being leaked to criminals, but the police are bound to have more complete intelligence.
- Orders for the guerrilla warfare came from imprisoned drug traffickers, who are being moved to prisons where contact with their subordinates will be more difficult. The subordinates had no choice but to obey those orders, but now that they are cut off from the bosses their determination may begin to falter, especially as they come under siege and attack from the police, who are manning roadblocks around the city, and have help from the highway police to stem the flow of weapons into Rio.
- Meanwhile, the drug traffic, the warriors’ biggest resource, has surely dried up.
- The drug traffickers’ weapons intimidate and threaten favela residents, but the majority of these want peace, don’t support the local chiefs and can choose to dial the Disque-Denúncia to provide the police with information and in some cases, earn rewards.
What do you think? Please leave your comment. And remember that dramatic news of violence is only part of the story of Rio de Janeiro’s transformation. Scroll down, read on, share and subscribe for free, if you like.