Rio’s Battle for Vila Cruzeiro Continues

By Amy Skalmusky, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The tally continues to rise as the battle in Rio de Janeiro rages on: 23 deaths, 50 burnt vehicles and 159 injured and over 100 people arrested since Sunday. This afternoon, 150 members of the elite BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais) forces, police from the CORE (Coordenadoria de Recursos Especiais) unit and thirty naval sharp shooters mobilized six armored vehicles and entered the Vila Cruzeiro favela, in Penha, a suburb of Rio.

Favela Vila Cruzeiro in Penha, image recreation.

Favela Vila Cruzeiro in Penha a neighborhood in Zona Norte, image recreation.

Many of the criminals responsible for the violence that has been raging since Sunday are said to be held up in the favela. As the police entered the fugitives set fire to tires and cars to impede their approach; but the barriers have been no match for the M113 armored vehicles, the same ones used in the war in Iraq.

Police have already apprehended 29 handguns, ten machine guns, two 12 caliber rifles, a sub-machine gun, five grenades, two home made bombs and a ton of marijuana in Wednesday’s operations, according Coronel Henrique Lima Castro, the Police spokesperson.

Earlier today, a time bomb made of six sticks of dynamite was found inside a trash receptacle on a busy street in Madureira, in Rio’s Zona Norte (North zone). The bomb was discovered by garbage men and the bomb squad was able to remove it before it detonated.

Map illustrating the areas of conflict today in relation to tourist centers of Copacabana and Ipanema, image by Google Maps (click to expand).

Transportation companies have been recalling buses to garages and the usually busy streets around the areas of confrontation are empty.

The ongoing battle between police and well-armed criminals has left residents terrified. Those living in the battle zones have been instructed to stay inside their homes near the hallways or lay on the floor to avoid errant bullets. The radius of a machine gunshot is 1,500 meters and can pierce walls.

The Vila Cruzeiro favela has a population estimated between 40,000 – 70,000, and is located near the “Complexo Alemão”, which encompasses ten neighborhoods and over forty favelas. It is considered one of the most dangerous areas in the city.

Police prepare to enter the Vila Cruzeiro favela, image recreation.

Police prepare to enter the Vila Cruzeiro favela, image recreation.

Similar police operations are going on in the Jacarezinho favela, located near Méier, a suburb of Rio, where over 100 police have entered the favela.

The conflicts have not altered the UPP (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora) roll-out plans, which do not include setting up units in the Vila Cruzeiro favela in the near future. José Mariano Beltrame, Rio’s security secretary announced that although they do not have the resources at the moment to take on the area around the Complexo Alemão, the police that are in the Vila Cruzeiro will remain there for an undetermined amount of time

As for the present operation, police have long term plans according to Police Cornel Álvaro Garcia, “This operation isn’t just an in and out one. We’ll arrest the criminals and dominate the area,” he said. He may be right, as images on local news channels have shown hundreds of criminals fleeing the favela and taking heavy gunfire from police.

The police confrontations have been largely concentrated in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. According to Josua Cashill, an American and resident of Ipanema for thirteen years, it isn’t terror in the streets. “Over the past weeks there has been really nothing here to cause alarm. Stores are open and people are out in the streets – it’s business as usual,” he said.

Regardless of the relative calm in Zona Sul (South zone), residents stay glued to the news, and officials will be under increased pressure to restore confidence in the public security as the year’s summer season begins and scrutiny increases for the host city of the 2014 World Cup finals and 2016 Olympics.

Correction: November 26, 2010
This article was first published on November 25th and stated that Beltrame announced UPP (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora) roll-out plans now included units in the Vila Cruzeiro favela.

27 Responses to "Rio’s Battle for Vila Cruzeiro Continues"

  1. Diego  November 25, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Well yeah Josua… of course, Ipanema is always calm. Zona Norte is another story. Not just today, but in general.

  2. Todd Burmeister  November 26, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    Let’s hope it goes back to normal everywhere soon.

  3. Victor  November 26, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    All the neighborhoods are called favela besides where the elite gather to show off their limited material wealth. This city seems like it is dirt, I don’t know why people are so in love with it, when its not a center for any sort of innovation to humanity just a zone for the rich to show off their crap and the poor to show off their crap which no one is really interested about if you got no middle class you got nothing worth watching. Wanna stop the violence? You have to disperse people and force them to move else where, where not everyone is like minded and not liked to be as organized. The art of war by Sun Tzu clearly states that to win a war one does not go after certain individuals but after territory go after the favelas and take control. Cut off entrance to were the elite are whos only crime is being lame and make the residents of the favelas disperse to other parts of the country by cutting out food supplies. Their life is already hard, forcing them to go after their ambitions in a less corrupted piece of land will only do them good. Police in other communities can deal with crimes as the population of the favelas disperses, brazil has lots of room. Its easier to deal with one or two criminals per neighborhood then 20 thousand potential criminals concentrated and heavily armed. They are a rebel army if one really looks at it. The BOPE needs to read the art of war and act accordingly. One of its major points on winning a war is deception. Attack a favela forcing individuals to flee to another they are not so familiar with which is really the target and so on and so forth. good luck brazil and im staying the hell away from rio. Its a war zone and it should be treated like one people can pull the veil in front of their eyes all they want but sooner or later shit will hit the fan. And keep people in the favelas from reproducing when they dont even have money for themselves, if you are going to arrest make sure they come out sterile. Extreme times call for extreme measures.

  4. Tony  November 26, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    Thank you for your words of wisdom Victor.
    You’re not Norman Schwarzkopf by any chance are you ??

  5. Ana  November 26, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    i think that your comment was completely stereotypical. first of all, your comment about rio saying ” its not a center for any sort of innovation to humanity just a zone for the rich to show off their crap and the poor to show off their crap which no one is really interested about if you got no middle class you got nothing worth watching”. really, are you serious? anyone who actually knows anything about the class divisions in brazil knows for a fact that yes indeed, there IS a middle class here. there is a very large group of people in all sorts of professions who are neither poor nor rich, and their lifestyles may be quite comparable to that of a north american middle class standard. and what you say about the rich class only wanting to “show off” as though that is their only purpose in life? i’m sorry to say this but how much more ignorant or narrow minded could that statement be? there are tons of hardworking people here in brazil who have earned degrees, moved up in companies, done WELL for themselves (taking in mind that brazil isnt exactly the land of great job opportunities), and very well deserve to be where they are in many cases… and for you to stereotype them into a catergory that portrays them in a shallow, meaningless way like that is very wrong. also, your idea of solving the problems here are by cutting off food sources and forcing them to move so that they are not clustered together in the same area, and shouldn’t produce more. 90 percent of the people who live in favelas are honest, hardworking people who were born into poverty but make the best of what they have. it is so unfair to assume that anybody from a favela is automaticaly a drug dealer or criminal. they are human beings who have just as much right to be here as anyone else and your ideas of how to deal with them are actually sickening, who do you think they are, animals? just because there are criminals who come from favelas doesn’t mean EVERYONE else is.

  6. Ronaldo  November 26, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Apart from some problems that we face here, we have to put up with some Americans alienated from cituação that really is in Brazil. The New World Order is on its way and Americans have much to worry about, especially with the FEMA concentration camps, more than five billion plastic coffins, trains prison on 3 levels, Bus mass evacuation, etc.. Sorry, but the American people also have much to worry about!

  7. Edward  November 26, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    As always, what is happening in Rio these days will change nothing. The issue is drugs and the money it generates. All those in power benefit and will certainly not do anything serious to jeopardize that.
    Brazilians need to face up to the truth, talk openly and honestly about the problems if they are to find real solutions instead of just temporary breaks in violence.
    I`ve been coming to Brazil for more than 10yrs but from day one the solutions were clear to me but like many things in Brazil, GREED gets in the way.

  8. Yasmim Ferrari  November 26, 2010 at 7:16 PM

    The problems of people think that Brazil is still living in the past, Rio de Janeiro is a city but to be admired, I’m sorry but whoever does such a comment to me is not a jealous person, these operations are not an attitude valid for all our problems of faction, trafficking and violence. We have a middle class but, honestly I think you still live in the past saying that we have no money even to us, think in that period who lent money to the IMF were in, and who are you Americans to talk about peace, war? whether they are the first to promote?

  9. Charlie  November 27, 2010 at 9:43 AM

    I’m extremely surprised by some of the comments posted here. I’m an Estrangero living in Brasil for the last 2 years. And also a U.S. Army veteran(attached to 82nd airborne 1/345 Ft. Bragg), (75th Ranger regiment, 2nd batt out of Fort Benning, GA) and Iraqi war veteran. When it comes to the “classes” in Rio, there is a middle class, a huge middle class. Go visit Barra, Recreio, Tijuca and you will see for yourself the middle class in Rio. And as for the people in RIo…….. On the whole, Brazilian people are extremely friendly, outgoing people, that will go out of there way to help you. And for example, there are thousand and thousands of people living in Alemao, and roughly 400 armed bandits. Rio is doing what it has to do to improve the life of the people and I applaud them for doing so. And for the people who have never spent an extend amount of time in Rio, unfortunately there’s no way for you to understand the situation at hand.
    Yes, Rio does have a long way to go, but they are moving in the right direction.
    And as for the people in Penha. I have some very good friends in that area, yes, its a different kind of life compared to American standards, but this isn’t America! They see things people shouldn’t see! They see things that only people who have enlisted in the military and deployed to the middle east have seen. This is there life and the have to deal with that day to day. And now, Rio is trying restore some well needed order in Penha so these people can have a normal life.

    Stay strong Rio!

  10. Diego  November 27, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    The real bandits are the politicians… who have created this mess via their corruption and poor management. For every UPP installed, this money could have been better used building schools and universities and trade-schools…

  11. Barry Varkel  November 27, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    Victor, I have a small question for you. Are you in any way related to, or descended from a small moustachioed man from WW2 who went by the name of Adolf Hitler?

    I cannot believe the comments you have made. You should be ashamed of yourself. I can only dismiss you as ignorant, opinionated and downright foolish. I honestly believe that Rio had a collective celebration or even a mini carnaval the moment you left her shores. How can you suggest dealing with human beings in such a disgusting way? You’re worse than a nazi.

    The criminality problem in Rio is complex and there are no easy solutions. One thing that is for sure, and I have stated this before, is that unless the underlying issues of poverty, education and corruption in government are addressed and properly dealt with, no progress will be made. Performing cosmetic surgery on the poorer classes of Rio society for the purposes of proving Rio safe for the World Cup and The Olympics will not leave any lasting and sustainable effect for the greater good of the city as a whole in the years to come. At the same time, Rio needs to be a safe environment for tourists and foreigners who will be coming here and spending huge amounts of money on and for these events.

    The Rio city administration urgently needs to find creative, intelligent and realistic solutions to these ongoing problems. Any other means will just prove to be short-term fixes.

  12. Blake  November 27, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    Victor,
    Your comments are both rude and ignorant. I’m from the U.S. and lived in Rio for some time. Teaching English in a favela, and studying community development at a university in Rio, one can easily realize that it is a complex problem. What makes you so special that you can tell other people to not reproduce? How can you call one of the beautiful cities in the world, “dirt”? Are you kidding! That’s bogus. The people I met from favelas, are some of the warmest people I’ve ever met that were willing to give more than they had. You’re statement on the other hand is nothing short of cold hearted. And actually, Rio is in fact filled with innovation and humanity. Guess you’ve never heard Bossa nova or samba. Guess you’ve never met a Carioca. That city is an epicenter of great culture and amazing, kind-hearted people. There’s some rough things going on right now, but don’t let the bad apples ruin your view of the whole bunch. Rio and its people top notch.

  13. MSB  November 27, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    I seem to remember the same kind of stuff going on the states .Drugs and riots Ect… Not to mention the war zones along the Mexican borders ,which are getting worse each day .As far as Middle Class in America …. Less you make 400K a yr or more , you are just Lower class citizens living in the Ideas set up
    by the US Politicians.Its politically correct to let ppl Think they are Middle Class but actually ppl struggling to pay bills earning 100k a yr …..ISNT MIDDLE Class .

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  21. luis suarez  March 21, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    i once went to a favela and i met 5 other lovely people then 6 other bad ones they had guns, grenades, knives and flashbangs this was the first time i played COD:MW2 and we won 7500 to 6400 yhhhh

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