Following new outbreaks of violence in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, Brazil’s authorities have announced plans to send in troops to occupy one of the city’s largest slums in the lead-up to the World Cup, prior to an attempt to install a UPP in the shantytown complex.
The governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Sergio Cabral, said armed forces would occupy the Complexo da Mare, a group of slums in the north of the state’s capital. The announcement was made after a spate of attacks last week in nearby favelas, in which suspected drug traffickers fired at Police Pacification Units (UPPs), according to Reuters. The attacks prompted Cabral to ask President Dilma Rousseff to send federal troops into the complex, which is located in an important area in regards to security, reported the Rio Times.
Some 100,000 people live in Mare, which is composed of 16 slums that border the city’s main international airport. Through them run three highways that reach the city’s downtown, prompting Cabral to call the area both “sensitive” and “strategic.”
Troops will enter Mare after the military police (BOPE), in an operation intended to drive out the gangs who presently control the area. A new UPP post with 1,500 members will later be put in place at an as yet undetermined time. In 2013, plans to install a UPP in the area were postponed.
While it is an uncommon move to send the military in to occupy favelas pre-pacification, it is not unprecedented, and was used in a 2010 occupation.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mare’s geographic location and size makes it an important area for the Red Command, the drug trafficking gang that controls many of its favelas. However, sources in Rio told InSight Crime that the slum is not the city’s main hub of drug trafficking, as had been reported in the international press.
Nevertheless, it registers significant violence, and establishing control will be important to Brazil’s attempt to allay any security fears as the World Cup approaches. As this is not the first try at establishing a UPP there under Rio’s pacification program, the current initiative is likely to be closely scrutinized.
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Though the pacification program has been lauded for bringing about a reported 65 percent drop in the murder rate in pacified areas, the recent attacks show the gangs’ ability to reassert themselves in areas where UPPs are present, and have fueled criticisms over the program’s shortcomings in regards to social investment.
But quelling violence in the short term is likely the most pressing concern for Rio’s officials, who want to avoid any ugly headlines as Rio takes center stage for the World Cup.