Rio de Janeiro’s tourist hotspot of Copacabana has been hit by rioting and gunfights after residents of a nearby favela accused pacification police of beating a man to death, raising further questions about Brazil’s security crackdown ahead of the World Cup.
Trouble erupted after the discovery of the body of a 26-year-old man in a nursery in the favela of Pavão-Pavãozinho, who died from what preliminary reports say was a punctured airway, reported O Globo. After hearing of the death, favela residents descended on a nearby Police Pacification Unit (UPP) station and accused police of murdering him.
The UPP site was attacked, vehicles were set alight and barricades erected in rioting that spread to Copacabana. There were reports of gunfire in the favela, and an “intense firefight,” reported the BBC. At least one person was shot and killed in the confrontations.
Police say the injuries of the dead man are “consistent with a fall,” but the man’s mother claims his body showed signs of a beating, and that there were trails of blood in the nursery, suggesting he had been dragged away by police.
Some residents claimed police had beaten him because they mistook him for a gang member while he was fleeing the scene of a gunfight. However, his mother said she believed he was targeted by the UPP because he had clashed with them previously, reported O Globo.
InSight Crime Analysis
With less than two months to go before Brazil hosts the soccer World Cup, the security situation in Rio, where the final will be staged, is looking increasingly strained.
The city’s flagship UPP slum pacification program, which has been successful in curbing violence in some of Rio’s violence hotspots, has been plagued by allegations of police abuse, and counter attacks against UPP units by organized crime groups.
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Ahead of the World Cup, Rio has taken a more hardline stance to security, staging military invasions of troublesome favelas.
This could prove a risky policy. As these recent disturbances appear to demonstrated the more repressive Rio’s security policies get, the greater the chance of pushback, either from the communities themselves or from the gangs.