By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The series of violent attacks and confrontations that have blazed across Rio in the past week prompted officials to conduct the largest police operations in its history. Multiple organizations collaborated to pursue and overwhelm armed gangs of drug-dealers and criminals that have long since controlled large favela areas of the city.
The city’s Polícia Militar (PM, Military Police) initiated the operation Fecha Quartel (Closed Quarters) on the third day of the attacks, calling all police officers to duty, including those who were on leave and vacation.
According to PM spokesman Colonel Lima Castro, they had to take such drastic measures in order to pave the way for tactics that will be carried out later this year. The department recognizes the need to hire 7,000 new police officers in order to be able to effectively conduct patrols and future operations in the city.
Throughout the past week, the PM, which is the state entity responsible for primary policing duties, was assisted by the Polícia Civil (Civil Police), which acts as a state bureau of investigation, as well as the Polícia Federal (Federal Police).
When the conflict intensified between the police and the heavily armed criminals in the favela of Vila Cruzeiro, the governor of the state of Rio, Sérgio Cabral, asked for help from federal authorities, and President Lula approved Defense Minister Nelson Jobim’s decision to send 800 Brazilian Army soldiers to assist the security forces in the city.
Jobim declared the measure necessary to “ensure the protection of the areas occupied by the police.” He further stated that the collaboration of the Armed Forces along with Marine and Air Force artillery, were determining factors in facilitating the police penetration of the Complexo do Alemão favelas, a well-known hub for criminal activities.
The Ministry of Defense has ordered the Armed Forces to stay and continue assisting the Military and Civil Police in Rio, until the state authorities determines the next steps to be taken to maintain order in the city.
Cabral, meanwhile, held a meeting with president-elect Dilma Rousseff in Brasília on Monday, and later announced that at least 2,000 Armed Forces soldiers would collaborate on the pacification of the favelas of Complexo do Alemão, which is set to be completed within the first half of 2011.
The governor defended the model adopted for the pacification of Rio’s favelas, which is done by implementing Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPPs, Police Pacification Units), stating that it “has existed for two years, and has worked.”
Cabral also expressed concern about the infrastructure that the state will need to host the 2016 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, He said that “the work of three decades will need to be done in six years” in the areas of sanitation and urban mobility, in addition to public security.