By Benjamin Parkin, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, has announced that federal troops will occupy the Complexo da Maré, a complex of favelas in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone). They will be there for an indefinite period of time before a UPP (Police Pacifying Unit) is set up.
BOPE (the Special Operations Battalion of the Military Police) have occupied two of Maré’s favelas, Nova Holanda and Parque União, since Friday. However, control of the entire complex is due to be taken over by the Army, working in collaboration with the Federal Police and the Federal Highway Police, before the UPP of approximately 1,500 officers is inaugurated. This was the same model used in the Complexo do Alemão in 2010.
The announcement comes after several weeks of escalating violence in Rio’s Zona Norte favelas. Last Thursday, the Maguinhos UPP headquarters were burned down after rioting and conflicts. Attacks on UPPs have become increasingly commonplace in 2014, with four UPP officers killed so far this year.
On Friday, Cabral went to Brasília to ask President Dilma Rousseff to dispatch federal troops to Rio in order to aid with security in the city, through the adoption of the GLO (Law and Order Guarantee). This is the sixth time the GLO has been used to deploy federal troops in Rio since 2007. Cabral explained, “We asked the federal government for the GLO for the Complexo da Maré, a strategic area from a security perspective. Ultimately, we will have the BRT Transcarioca, it is close to Galeão [airport]. It is a sensitive area.”
Brazil’s Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo said, after meeting with Governor Cabral, “[The troops] will remain as long as is necessary. What I can tell you is that this is a definitive action… The legacy of the World Cup will be a collaboration between the different federal entities. Together, we are stronger.”
The Complexo da Maré is a conglomeration of fifteen favelas, and is situated between two of Rio’s principal roads, the Avenida Brasil, going from the Zona Oeste (West Zone) to the Center, and the Linha Vermelha, which runs to the airport. This makes it a territory of strategic importance and high visibility.
However, Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame denied that the occupation of Maré was related to the upcoming World Cup: “We are not thinking about the World Cup, we are thinking about Carioca citizens […] We are not going to create a UPP in Maré because of the World Cup, because the World Cup will go away and Maré will continue.”
In an initial response to the violence, BOPE officers occupied the Complexos do Alemão and Penha. On Friday, they occupied six non-UPP favelas, claiming they were all strongholds of the Comando Vermelho (Red Command), the criminal faction supposedly behind the attacks. As well as Nova Holanda and Parque União, these include Morro do Chapadão, in Costa Barros; Morro do Juramento and Juramentinho, in Vincente de Carvalho; and Para-Pedro, in Colégio.
Beltrame also denied that the plan to install a UPP in Maré was related to the recent violence: “We are not interested in the faction […] There is no relation between Maré and the latest attacks. What we are doing is installing a UPP in Maré, something we were going to do in the future. What we are doing is taking away yet another territory from the domination of the drug traffic.”