By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police (PM) force has started to take over command in the Complexo da Maré favela communities from the currently stationed national army forces. The handover will happen in stages and should be completed by June 30th, together with the installation of four Pacifying Police Units (UPPs).
As of yesterday, March 31st, around 3,300 military personnel from the army and the navy were stationed in the Maré favela complex in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) that combines sixteen favela communities. The military will now be replaced by agents of the military police in three stages.
The first stage started last night with fifty policemen taking over in Roquette Pinto, building a security belt around the region. The full troupe of 117 men planned for Praia de Ramos and Roquette Pinto will be stationed there as soon as the construction of the first UPP unit is completed, which should happen within the next two months.
“We know about the difficulties we face, but there is no going back. We know about the clarity of the peace process. There are 140,000 residents in sixteen communities [in Maré]. We are aware of the size of the challenge, but we have to show our determination,” colonel Frederico Caldas, public relations of the police force, said about the mission.
The next phase of the hand-over will take place on May 1st in the Nova Holanda, Parque União, Parque Rubens Vaz and Nova Maré communities. Besides the one already in construction, another three UPPs will be installed by the end of the occupation, one for Nova Holanda and Parque União; one for Baixa do Sapateiro and Tambaú; and the last one responsible for Vila do João and Vila dos Pinheiros.
“Until June 30th the pacification of the area is complete. We currently plan with 1,620 men for Maré, but that number can be changed according to the needs of the region,” colonel Caldas explained.
The military had occupied the favela complex under the “São Francisco Operation” a year ago and realized more than 65,000 operations since then. Around 16,700 military personnel were involved in the operation that received more than 2,200 tips from the population.
Admiral Ademir Sobrinho from the Defense Ministry praised the troupes and explained the difficulty of the mission, stating that the flat topography of the region, the high population concentration and the scarce presence of representatives of the state judiciary – for the issuing of, for example, search and seizure warrants – complicated the progress of actions.
The Complexo da Maré is a seven square kilometer large favela community complex on the rim of Guanabara Bay with a population of around 140,000. It is made up of sixteen different communities: Praia de Ramos, Parque Roquette Pinto, Parque União, Parque Rubens Vaz, Nova Holanda, Parque Maré, Conjunto Nova Maré, Baixa do Sapateiro, Morro do Timbau, Bento Ribeiro Dantas, Vila dos Pinheiros, Conjunto Pinheiros, Conjunto Novo Pinheiro – Salsa & Merengue, Vila do João and Conjunto Esperança.