By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Residents of Complexo do Alemão made a protest calling for peace and justice in the community after ten year-old Eduardo de Jesus was hit by a stray bullet last Thursday (April 2nd) on his doorstep and passed away. While the police have been accused of excessive use of violence in the community, governor Luiz Fernando Pezão confirmed yesterday, April 5th, that the area will be reoccupied by the state’s military police force.
Eduardo de Jesus was the sixth shooting victim in Complexo do Alemão, since just last Wednesday (April 1st), when a mother and daughter had also been hit indoors by stray bullets. The young Maynara Moura, age sixteen, shot in the arm, received medical care and was the only survivor.
Confrontations continue to be routine in Complexo do Alemão, which encompasses fifteen favela communities with an estimated 70,000 residents. Although the pacification program was launched in 2008 with the first installation of UPPs (police pacification units), it was in 2010 when federal armed forces came to Rio to support police in a battle for the streets of Alemão.
While security improved, and a Complexo do Alemão gondola was launched for public transportation and as a tourist attraction in July 2011 with much optimism, it was not until April 2012 that the initial UPP station was inaugurated. Nevertheless, violence has continued to be part of daily life in the Zona Norte (North Zone) area as waves of police confrontations with alleged traficantes (drug gangs) persist.
In the shooting death of Eduardo de Jesus, the suspicion is that the shot was fired by military police. The homicide department say they are investigating the case and all the police who participated in the operation in the boy’s death that day have been removed from duty in the area.
Experts in public safety and residents ask police to retreat as the civilian death toll rises among the community’s youth.
The boy’s mother, domestic worker Terezinha Maria de Jesus, who claims to have witnessed her son’s murder, declared during the protest “They are killing innocent people. This killer police took the life of my son.”
Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão went to Complexo do Alemão yesterday also and told the press that the area will be reoccupied by the Military Police. Since last week, police officers from the Special Operations Command (COE) reinforce patrolling in the region. According to the governor, the state will strengthen the pacification policy in Alemão and other communities.
“We are already discussing the strengthening of some UPPs. Alemão is one of them. Let’s get stronger, make a reoccupation. We will strengthen, place more policemen there. In these three months in office, we have already trained more than 1,100 military police and we will intensify the occupation in Alemão,” governor Pezão guaranteed.
The governor reiterated that despite recent clashes, the state will not back down. “For all the communities I visit, I see that people want peace. And in communities that have not yet been pacified, people ask that we set up an UPP. Of course we have to adapt. It is a process of six, seven years, we have to go re-evaluating, seeing what went right, what went wrong, and go adapting.”
“We know that security is not the only [issue]. Security is a tool for us to take on health, education, social action, sewage treatment and water supply. We are making a great effort and we will not go back. On the contrary, security continues to be our mantra, our mother policy. We will continue investing heavily in Alemão and in the most [challenging] areas,” said the governor.
Pezão went on to say that the use of the Armed Forces in Alemão is not required. According to the governor, in addition to hiring new police officers, the actual UPP force will undergo a reinforcement and new training by the BOPE and [police] shock troops.
“We have already started training these officers at Morro São João. The work is done with BOPE and shock troops entering the communities and staying up to ten days […] We will do this in all UPPs, and continue training new officers. We have 6,000 police officers who passed the training exams and that we will still hire this year.”
Currently, the UPPs of the Complexo do Alemão and Penha have 2,170 police officers, 1,230 being only in Alemão.