Brazilian military police have peacefully occupied three Rio de Janeiro favelas prior to introducing a new police pacification unit (UPP), while the shooting of a UPP officer in another favela has raised questions over the units’ level of control.
Three favelas located near Cristo Redentor — one of Rio’s principal tourist attractions in the south of the city — were occupied by at least 420 members of the military police elite squad in preparation for the installation of the city’s 33rd UPP. The three favelas — Cerro Cora, Guararapes, and Vila Candido — are home to around 2,800 residents.
The takeover was performed in approximately a half hour without gang resistance. According to newspaper Estadao, following the latest occupation all communities in Rio’s south zone now have some form of armed presence.
Around the same time, police in Rocinha, also in the city’s South Zone, were attacked by suspected drug traffickers, reported Jornal do Brasil. One agent was hit by a bullet, but is in a stable condition.
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The Rio government aims to install 40 UPPs by the end of 2014, under a long-running strategy which sees favelas occupied and “secured” by military police before UPPs are installed.
The UPP program, which began in 2008, has generally been hailed as a success, with a 2012 study finding that UPP presence reduced homicides by an estimated 60 per 100,000 residents per year. However, there are signs that UPP presence could have some negative side effects, such as a doubling of kidnap numbers in Rio and increased violence in other parts of the country. Reports in March that gangs were moving back into the favelas raised questions over the permanence and extent of UPP control, with the latest attack in Rocinha — which has the biggest of all the UPPs but suffers continued insecurity — adding to these concerns.