By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Major news outlet O Globo reported that the press office of the Coordinator of Pacifying Police (CPP) confirmed the change of command in 16 of 38 UPPs in the state over the next week. Rio de Janeiro’s inaugural Police Pacification Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, or UPP) was installed in the Santa Marta favela community six years ago, and employs a force of almost ten thousand officers serving a reported 1.5 million residents.
Among the changes are areas that have experienced challenges recently, such as the unit of Nova Brasília, in Complexo do Alemão, where captain Paulo Ramos is being replaced by major Leonardo Gomes Zuma.
Earlier this month four Nova Brasília police officers were shot in a clash with suspected drug traffickers. Attacks on UPP officers, buildings and cars have increased in 2014, with police deaths in the first three months of this year outnumbering the total of officer deaths recorded during all of 2013.
The list of communities receiving new heads of UPP stations includes the Morro dos Macacos (Hill of the Monkeys), in Vila Isabel, which reported earlier this month an attack on their base: Major Bruno Amaral leaves and enters the captain Adelino Medeiros de Azevedo.
Despite sixteen changes, the press office of the UPP said that these are routine in the organization. Earlier this month, the Security Bureau announced the change in overall command of units: Lieutenant Colonel Luis Claudio Laviano, which was ahead of the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), was chosen to replace Colonel Francisco Caldas, who was in the position for about a year and a half.
Among other UPPs to see leadership changes are Cidade de Deus (City of God), to be a woman commander: a major Alessandra Veruschka Carvalhaes, which was ahead of the UPP Caju takes place in the major Felipe Romeo. The oldest UPP in Rio, the Santa Marta, have Lt. Gustavo Matheus Castanheira replacing Captain Marcio Almeida Rocha.
Although the UPP program of Rio de Janeiro was established in 2008, and has seen success in many communities, it remains controversial. Some areas like the Complexo do Alemão, group of favela communities in Rio’s Zona North (North Zone) – home to an estimated 120,000 residents – continue to face violence on a regular basis.