Troops sent to favela as drug vi­o­lence spikes

Sunday Star-Times - - WORLD -

Hun­dreds of Brazil­ian soldiers have poured into Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha slum in a bid to help the cash-strapped state gov­ern­ment quell drug-re­lated vi­o­lence that au­thor­i­ties have blamed for at least four deaths and sev­eral in­juries there this week.

The army de­ployed 950 troops in the sprawl­ing favela yes­ter­day, re­spond­ing to a re­quest from the Rio state gov­ern­ment, De­fence Min­is­ter Raul Jung­mann said.

In the past week, 60 crim­i­nals are be­lieved to have launched an ef­fort to dom­i­nate the drug trade in the area, not far from some of the city’s most ex­pen­sive real es­tate, and shoot­ings were re­ported there yes­ter­day, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia.

The vi­o­lence in Rocinha is one more sign of the back­slid­ing since the launch of a ‘‘paci­fi­ca­tion’’ pro­gramme in 2008 to re­duce vi­o­lence by push­ing out drug gangs and set­ting up per­ma­nent po­lice posts in the city’s more than 1000 fave­las.

Po­lice strug­gled to main­tain their se­cu­rity gains in the fave­las in the runup to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and have con­tin­ued to lose ground as a fis­cal cri­sis in the city and state lead to cut­backs in spend­ing on po­lice and other es­sen­tial ser­vices.

The mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in Rocinha dis­rupted trans­porta­tion and busi­nesses in the area, with some schools clos­ing or par­ing back classes.

‘‘I was go­ing to work and sud­denly the po­lice closed off the tun­nel in Rocinha and started to pa­trol with guns. There was a panic at the mouth of the tun­nel, and I saw peo­ple run­ning and heard gun­fire,’’ one wit­ness said. ‘‘I’m still shak­ing now.’’

The out­break of vi­o­lence is hap­pen­ing in the midst of the Rock In Rio mu­sic fes­ti­val at the far south end of the city, which has drawn thou­sands of peo­ple with mu­si­cal acts in­clud­ing Fergie and Aero­smith.

There were up to 10,000 troops in Rio, who could be mo­bilised if needed, the de­fence min­istry said.

‘‘We’re not go­ing to back off in Rocinha,’’ said the gov­er­nor of Rio state, Luiz Fer­nando Pezao.

GETTY IMAGES

A man walks past Brazil­ian Armed Forces soldiers as they pa­trol the Rocinha favela com­mu­nity in Rio de Janeiro af­ter a spate of drug-re­lated vi­o­lence that has claimed at least four lives this week.

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