Brazil Targets Violent Rio Slums

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RIO DE JANEIRO: March 12, 2014 (AFP) – Rio police will boost their presence in a violent slum controlled by drug gangs as authorities crack down on crime in the final countdown to the World Cup, an official source said Tuesday.
The source said a specialist police battalion will be deployed in the notorious Vila Kennedy favela on Thursday as part of Brazil’s campaign to “pacify” violent neighborhoods.
The battalion’s deployment in Vila Kennedy, home to around 100,000 people, comes ahead of the permanent stationing there of what will be the 38th Police Pacification Unit or UPP.
Authorities aim to add another two units by the time the World Cup kicks off on June 12.
Vila Kennedy has in recent weeks been the scene of violent clashes between rival gang leaders.
Violent crime has been on the rise generally in deprived Rio areas with 16 police killed since January, three in “pacified” slums.
Rio security affairs secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame said Sunday the army could be deployed in favelas already “pacified” since the first UPP units were deployed in 2008, shortly after Brazil was selected as World Cup host.
The list includes Rocinha, Rio’s largest slum which is a stone’s throw from the luxury hotel where England will be staying during the World Cup.
The pacification program is designed to show Rio is a safe venue to host the 2016 Olympics, which will be South America’s first Olympiad, as well as World Cup action, including the July 13 final.
The Vila Kennedy operation will see the number of UPP officers deployed in 253 favelas top 9,000.
In the six years since the pacification program began homicides in districts with a UPP presence have fallen by 65 percent and by 48 percent in Rio as a whole.
“We shall continue the pacification process — nothing will stop us. if we see we need something stronger than occupations, we shall do it,” Beltrame vowed in an interview Sunday with Globo.
Beltrame believes traffickers have stepped up violence in response to losing cash and influence over their fiefdoms since the UPP program was rolled out.
Defense Minister Celso Amorin told foreign correspondents Tuesday he had yet to receive a request from Beltrame for military support.
Amorim said such support would be provided only in “exceptional” circumstances, as happened for the 2010 occupation of the Complexo do Alemao group of favelas or where the security situation is “very serious.”
Rio authorities last month launched a new offensive on drugs crime and Monday arrested eight suspected traffickers at Complexo do Alemao including a man working as a security agent for a cablecar service in the favela.
After Vila Kennedy, the next pacification target is the Complexo da Mare group of favelas near Rio’s international airport.

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