War in Rio Roundup #2

[UPDATED DEC. 1, with links below to suggested reading] Schools reopened, faucets were robbed, and narcos were tracked into drainage pipes; shooting overnight in Água Santa, between druglords and militia members; shots heard in Complexo do Alemão as well. Two hundred public health workers began mapping families’ needs and started work to prevent dengue fever.

On Nov. 30, 31 municipal schools in the north zone areas of Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão reopened, while soldiers and police continued to surround the favelas and carry out  house-to-house searches for criminals, weapons and drugs. According to O Globo, so far 123 suspects have been arrested, while 42 tons of marijuana and 300 kilos of cocaine, plus a great deal of cash, weapons and vehicles have been found.

Residents complained that police have mistreated them, damaged their homes, and in some cases, robbed them. Police officials set up an office to process these claims, say they’re following up on accusations and that punishment will occur as necessary. Residents swam in the pools and looted the luxurious homes of the absent drug-traffickers; one house was flooded because neighbors yanked off all the faucets. Cariocas are also calling the police hotline in unprecedented numbers– since Nov. 20, 3,630 calls came in regarding the two recently-occupied favelas. And this intelligence is being utilized efficiently, according to O Globo, which reports last week’s creation of a task force that represents a historic integration of military representatives and law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and municipal levels of government.

The authorities are also following up on information that many of the estimated 600 local narcotraffickers may have escaped through rainwater drainage pipes recently built under the federal government’s PAC, or accelerated growth program. TV Globo and other media reported on rumors that PAC workers had in fact been paid or pressured to add a getaway network onto the original pipes, which run two kilometers under the Complexo do Alemão and end at a major avenue.

Officials estimate that the drug traffic has suffered a US$ 60 million equivalent loss with the exodus from the Complexo do Alemão, where so much was left behind.

In a presentation Nov. 30 at the Casa de Rui Barbosa, anthropologist Alba Zaluar, who’s been researching Rio’s favelas for over 30 years, said that the region functioned as a kind of warehouse for weapons and drugs in Rio de Janeiro. The two recently “retaken” areas and others nearby came to be dominated by the drug traffic, she said, because of their proximity to Rio’s main points of entry: Avenida Brasil, the port and the airport. This is why the west zone was left for militias to expand, starting in the middle of the past decade.

Zaluar also mentioned that military policemen and their officials suffer from poor communication; they eat in separate dining facilities–  a reflection of Brazil’s hierarchical society that led to the creation of favelas in the first place.

O Globo reports that the army may stay at the Complexo do Alemão for seven months, until a police pacification unit (UPP) is installed there.

For more, see:

  • Stunning pictures taken in the last few days at the Complexo do Alemão
  • Twitcam interview published Nov 30 in O Globo, with state public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame, in which he says he believes that narcotraffickers escaped by way of newly-installed sewage pipes, that the plan was to go into the Complex in a year or so but had to be moved up because of the vehicle torching, that military police salaries will rise 70% over the next four years, and that Brazilians should pressure the federal government to crack down on arms and drugs coming in over the borders with Bolivia and Paraguay.
  • Economic columnist Miriam Leitão, in O Globo Nov. 30, on the “day after”, in which she suggests that the federal government monitor suspicious banking transactions more closely, as part of efforts to crack down on the drug trade.
  • Long but useful blog post by police expert Luiz Eduardo Soares
  • Thought-provoking Asia Times analysis by São Paulo-based Pepe Escobar, where the “big picture” points towards the global drug trade: “Now, with Brazil collectively engaged in a major drive to become an essential global player, there seems to be a consensus that the time is right to start tackling the big picture. It will be a long and winding road, full of treacherous, slum-dwelling alleyways, before the 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games – where Rio will be the superstar. So cleaning up is a must.”
  • Excellent post by a gringa blogger who was in Rio for a wedding, about what last week felt like.
  • Another interview with state public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame, in Globo, about how his team prepared the invasion of Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão. Notably, he says he was able to get help from the federal police because “it’s my house”; and he calls the Rio chief of the federal police by his first name. Beltrame worked for the federal police for many years. Personal contacts… are everything.
  • Listing in Extra from civil police stats of all arrests and aprehensions to date in Vila  Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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