By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After almost a week of violence, and an ultimatum issued on Saturday to armed fugitives for surrender, the police continued efforts in securing the city against drug trafficker’s terrorism. By the end of the day Sunday, they had taken over the vast Alemão’s slum complex, one of the biggest drug dealer strongholds in the city.
Different divisions of state and federal police joined armed forces on a 2,700 men strong coordinated action against the city’s drug traffickers, a cohesive operation as never seen before in Rio.
At 7:50AM the Policia Civil (Civil Police) aided by armored helicopters advanced, followed by the Marine’s tanks, military police, jungle police specialized in forest combat, and other security services with the aim to secure the entire area and surrounding forest, where criminals escaping from the police invasion in Vila Cruzeiro last Friday were spotted by a press helicopter.
With a less than expected resistance from the bandits, although not free of confrontations, at 8:12AM the police had already taken control of a strategic area known as Areal at the center of Alemão’s vast favela network. Along the way the police were making arrests as well as confiscating large quantities of drugs and finding stock-piles of weapons.
During the conflict, a total of three casualties were reported, and many of the armed criminals had abandoned their weapons and fled due to fear of the police siege. By 4PM, Zeu, one of the most infamous and dangerous of Rio’s gangsters who was convicted of torturing and killing Globo TV’s journalist Tim Lopes in 2002, was arrested.
The police this time seemed to have the support of the community, who stayed put and through the Disque-denúncia (Dial-denounce) service, aided the police occupation with tips on where criminals were hding. Several letters of support demonstrating their relief with the end of the dealers dominance in their communities have been broadcast by the Brazilian media.
As the day progressed more and more was revealed about the drug dealer’s operation. Among those were a dealer shelter for visiting bandits, a trafficker’s social club with swimming pool, a weapons repair workshop, drug and weapons deposits and a luxurious mansion, home of one boss, equipped with several large plasma screen TVs, swimming pool and central air conditioning system.
A thorough house-to-house search which started on the onset of the invasion is still being carried out and is expected to continue for several days, searching for hidden drugs, hideouts, weapons, dealers and their accomplices. Forty tons of marijuana, and around 200 kg of cocaine among other drugs have been seized by the end of the Sunday.
The government authorities appear to understand that social projects have to come with security policies, and in an official note, Eduardo Paes, the city’s mayor, unveiled a multi-million Reais plan to develope the communities in Penha area, with urbanization, new schools, health, education and recreational facilities to be implemented within the next three years.
The government of Rio de Janeiro’s message to organized crime in the city is clear, they want to put an end to the reign and terror imposed on residents. Rio de Janeiro State’s governor Sérgio Cabral declared that police and armed forces will be there to stay, and this operation is a decisive step on security strategies that have been already implanted in town, further guaranteeing this is just the beginning paving the way to a safer Rio.
International media remains transfixed as the tourist season begins and plans continue for the 2014 World Cup finals and 2016 Olympics. Fortunately despite the blatant terrorism tactics and sensational violence in Zona Norte (North zone), most of the city was not directly involved and affluent neighborhoods and most areas frequented by tourists remained relatively unaffected.