Police on patrol in Complexo do Alemão

Outbreaks of violence in one of Rio de Janeiro's major favelas are raising questions about the long-term effectiveness of Brazil's controversial pacification program, even as plans to expand the program continue.

On April 2, a 10-year-old boy was killed outside his home in Complexo do Alemão -- a favela complex located in northern Rio de Janeiro -- shot in the head by Police Pacification Unit (UPP) forces on patrol in the area, reported Euronews.

Violence has been on the rise in Complexo do Alemão, with a number of recent deadly shootouts between police and criminals; the death of the 10-year-old boy was the fourth in a two-day span. Since January, 40 people -- some of them innocent bystanders -- have been killed in Rio in battles between police and drug traffickers, reported El Pais

Meanwhile, on March 31, Rio de Janeiro's Military Police (PM) started to assume control of Complexo da Mare, another favela complex, beginning the replacement of around 3,300 military personnel. The handover process, which is expected to last until the end of June, will include the establishment of four UPPs in the favela complex, reported The Rio Times.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the heavy presence of security forces, shootouts have continued in both Complexo do Alemão and Complexo da Mare. This, combined with the death of the 10-year-old boy in Complexo do Alemão, has led to skepticism over the ability of police to stabilize Rio's security situation, as well as renewed debate and criticism of the strategies employed by the UPP program.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles

The recent violence in Complexo do Alemão -- where a UPP post was first installed in 2012 -- suggests that the UPPs have failed to meaningfully reduce violence and gang activity. As a consequence, it appears that in this favela complex, police are reverting back to the earlier UPP phase of heavy-handed crackdowns. 

As a whole in Rio, the ability of the UPPs to reduce violence and establish security over the long term has been thrown into doubt, with gangs demonstrating an ability to reassert themselves in "pacified" areas. The move to establish UPPs in Complexo da Mare, a notoriously lawless area, will likely also provoke backlash from criminal groups who operate in the favela complex, such as the Red Command, rather than contributing to a lasting peace. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...