Armed Strike in Rio Challenges Brazil’s Slum Pacification Program

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A Rio de Janeiro slum was on lock-down after local drug traffickers reportedly forced shops to close to mark the killing of a gang leader, in a direct challenge to the elite “pacifying” police unit (UPP) installed in the area.

Shops stayed closed in the neighborhood of Mangueira, while the streets were deserted aside from patrolling police, reported A Cidade.

Authorities believe the strike was ordered by a local gang to mark the death of leader Acir Ronaldo Monteiro da Silva, alias “2K,” who was gunned down on 17 February by unknown assailants. Two more neighborhood youths were murdered the same night.

In response to the murders and the shutdown, the UPP force in Mangueira, which was 120-strong, has been reinforced by 200 additional agents.

Mangueria has been occupied by the UPP since 2011 as part of Rio’s favela pacification program, which has seen crime-ridden slums “invaded” by the security forces to drive out local gangs and militias, before the installation of specially trained UPP units.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is not the first time local traffickers have called an armed strike in Mangueira. In April 2012, local traffickers ordered neighborhood businesses to shut down after the death of gang leader Wagner da Silva Assunçao.

These strikes are is a direct challenge to the UPP’s ability to control the area. While the pacification program has been widely heralded as reducing murder rates and increasing general security in the “pacified” areas, questions remain about whether these are permanent gains or if criminal groups are merely laying low. The armed strike ordered in Mangueira suggests the gangs may not be as visible or as violent, but still exert considerable influence in the slums.

Similar displays of power have been seen in Colombia, where the Urabeños gang ordered a shut-down of transport and businesses across much of the northwest in January 2012 after leader Juan de Dios Usuga was killed by the security forces.

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