By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In one of the largest operations since the beginning of the military intervention in Rio de Janeiro’s public security, Brazil’s Armed Forces arrested twenty-four people and confiscated a large volume of drugs, weapons and ammunition from the Lins de Vasconcelos favela community complex on Tuesday. In all 3,400 military personnel took part in the operation.
Morning commuters leaving the neighborhoods of Jacarepaguá, Barra da Tijuca and Recreio dos Bandeirantes were caught in huge traffic jams trying to get to work, due to the closing of one of the main throughways of the city, Grajau-Jacarepaguá highway by the military. Traffic was only allowed to resume in the middle of the afternoon.
During the ten hour plus operation military agents apprehended more than ten kilos of marijuana, large volumes of cocaine and crack cocaine, and more than a dozen stolen cars and motorcycles used by drug traffickers in the eleven neighborhoods that make up the Lins Vasconcelos favela community.
Some of the personnel spent hours trying to clear out large cement blocks from access roads to the communities which were put there by criminals hoping to halt police and military presence in the area.
Military personnel have also been seen in Rio’s higher income neighborhoods, located in Zona Sul (Southern Zone); particularly in areas of high concentration of tourists, such as Copacabana and Botafogo.
For retired school counselor, Thereza Musso, however, the personnel are just for show. “I don’t believe that they will help. They stay for half an hour and then go away,” says Musso, a long-time resident of Copacabana’s adjacent neighborhood, Leme.
She complains that the intervention decision came with no previous planning or strategy. “I don’t think these kids (military personnel) are equipped to handle crowds or shootouts between (criminal) factions when there are innocent civilians stuck in the middle,” she argues.
“They can’t really do anything, like shoot the criminals if they have a gun,” she says referring to the restrictions imposed by law of what the military personnel can do in the current intervention.