By Julia Averbuck, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After announcing the exoneration of the head of the UPP (Policy Pacifying Unit) in Morro da Providência, Captain Glauco Schorcht, the command at the Polícia Militar (Military Police, PM) decided to revoke their previous decision to remove him from the position.
The PM announced Schorcht’s removal on the morning of Thursday, August 30th, after two police men who had been part of his UPP unit were found to have participated in a large gambling scheme uncovered by Operação Catedral (Operation Cathedral) the previous day.
On Wednesday, August 29th, the Undersecretary for Intelligence within the State Secretary for Security carried out the operation to arrest 24 members of a gang running illicit gambling in Rio. This particular group ran jogo do bicho ( “the Animal Game”), a popular gambling game where you can bet any amount you desire in a lottery-like drawing, in the Centro area and parts of São Cristóvão.
Of the 24 arrest warrants, nine were for civil and military policemen, both active and retired. Twenty people have been arrested so far.
Police men are accused of looking the other way and facilitating the functioning of the gambling scheme in exchange for bribes. Police men involved received different amounts from the bicheiros (men who run the Animal Game scheme) based on their ranks, with the lowest official receiving R$300 a month and the highest paid receiving R$16,000.
Among them are Weber Santos de Oliveira, head of the Intelligence Department for the fourth Civil Police Department, Anderson Luiz de Souza, the head of the reserve service for the fifth battalion of the military police, and Marcos Aurélio de Chagas and Marcos André dos Santos, both sergeants in the UPP of Morro da Providência.
The decision to remove Schorcht, as well as the decision to remove Henrique Pessoa, chief of police of the 4th Police Department in Rio, took place within the context of increased monitoring of UPP operations for corruption scandals.
However, after further investigation and evidence that Schorcht had cooperated in the early stages of the investigation, the command at the PM revoked its decision to remove him. The PM further stated that their decision had been aided by the fact that the two military policemen arrested under this operation had recently been removed from their positions in the UPP unit.
The UPP operation in Morro da Providência was inaugurated on April 25, 2010. Since then, Schorcht has been at the head of operations.
Morro da Providência is located behind Central do Brasil (Central Station) and is known as Rio’s oldest favela. Popular culture believes that it was this community that originated the word “Favela,” since it was named Morro da Favela (Hill of the Favela) at the turn of the nineteenth century.
At first, this historical favela was very hesitant to welcome the UPP operations. The inauguration ceremony of 2010 was poorly attended and the president of the residents’ association, Vera Melo, did not attend.
Since then, however, the local perspective on the UPP appears to have improved, with the residents’ association organizing a surprise two-year anniversary celebration for the UPP Unit this past April.
The association’s vice-president, Maria Helena dos Santos, who was in charge of organizing the event, stated that “The UPP has come to improve services and guide our children in the ways of peace.” In recent years, Santos has somewhat replaced Mello as the spokesperson for the residents’ association.