Los Angeles Times

Rio police raid stirs outrage

At least 18 people are killed in shantytown­s. Officers are accused of excessive force.

- By Diarlei Rodrigues and Diane Jeantet Rodrigues and Jeantet write for the Associated Press.

RIO DE JANEIRO — A raid of Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of shantytown­s that left at least 18 people dead has sparked renewed complaints of excessive police violence and ignited debate over how to handle crime ahead of state and presidenti­al elections.

Rio authoritie­s said 16 suspects were killed in confrontat­ions with police in the Complexo do Alemao favelas, or shantytown­s, along with a police officer and a woman. The raid targeted a criminal group that stole cars, robbed banks and invaded nearby neighborho­ods.

Videos circulatin­g on social media showed intense shootouts as well as a police helicopter f lying low over the small brick houses. Rio’s police have used helicopter­s to shoot at targets, even in densely populated residentia­l areas, and video showed shots being fired from the favelas at the aircraft.

At the site of the raid, reporters saw residents carrying about 10 bodies as bystanders shouted, “We want peace!”

“It’s a massacre inside, which police are calling an operation,” said one woman, speaking on condition of anonymity because she feared reprisals from authoritie­s. “They’re not letting us help” victims, she added, saying that she saw one man arrested for attempting to do so.

Ronaldo Oliveira, an investigat­or with Rio’s police force, said officials would have rather just made arrests of suspects, “but unfortunat­ely they chose to fire at our policemen.”

Rio state Gov. Claudio Castro, who is running for reelection in October, said on Twitter that he lamented the police officer’s death.

“I will continue to fight crime with all my strength. We will not back down from the mission of guaranteei­ng peace and security to the people of our state,” Castro said.

In another tweet, Castro said his main rival in the election, leftist Marcelo Freixo, defends criminals who attack police, “such an important institutio­n that makes us so proud.”

Freixo responded that the governor “uses police to make politics.”

The government’s strategy for tackling violence and organized crime, an approach that regularly sees deadly police operations, has come under criticism. A raid in Rio’s Vila Cruzeiro favela in May killed more than 20 people.

Brazil will also hold presidenti­al elections in October, with security a key issue and President Jair Bolsonaro touting a tough-on-crime approach.

“ENOUGH of this genocidal policy, governor!” Taliria Petrone, a federal lawmaker for Rio, said in response to the governor’s tweet. “This failed public security policy leaves residents and police on the ground, en masse. It’s no longer possible to keep piling up Black bodies and favela residents every day!”

Robert Muggah, cofounder of Igarape Institute, a Rio de Janeiro-based think tank focused on security, said Thursday’s raid is “a symptom of failed leadership and an institutio­nal culture that condones excessive force.”

“The killings resulting from large-scale police operations is a grim reminder that militarize­d policing is not only ineffectiv­e, it is counterpro­ductive,” Muggah said in a text message, adding that those raids generate “extreme violence predominan­tly affecting low-income Black population­s while also corroding the trust between residents and law enforcemen­t.”

Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio that are home to about 70,000 people. Nearly three-quarters of them are Black or biracial, according to a July 2020 study published by the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economical Analyses.

Earlier this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court establishe­d a series of conditions for police to conduct raids in Rio’s favelas as a means to reduce police killings and human rights violations. The court ordered that lethal force be used only in situations in which all other means have been exhausted and when necessary to protect life.

The ruling came in response to a raid on the Jacarezinh­o favela in 2021 that resulted in 28 people being killed. As was the case Thursday, an officer died during that raid, which some speculated at the time was the cause for subsequent abuse and executions.

Thursday’s operation began before dawn and finished about 4 p.m. local time, police said. Nearly 400 officers were involved, including Rio’s tactical police unit, according to police.

In a video shared by Voz da Comunidade, a community news outlet focused on Rio’s favelas, residents can be seen calling for peace and waving white cloths from their windows and rooftops.

 ?? Silvia Izquierdo Associated Press ?? A RESIDENT of a Rio de Janeiro shantytown waves a white sheet in a message to police to stand down.
Silvia Izquierdo Associated Press A RESIDENT of a Rio de Janeiro shantytown waves a white sheet in a message to police to stand down.

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