By William Jones, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Authorities have made 26 arrests in the Zona Norte (North Zone) favela community of Complexo da Maré yesterday (November 13th), as part of an ongoing effort to secure the area. After announcing that 26 had been taken into custody in the early hours, police revealed that they have warrants for another 51 individuals who have allegedly committed crimes in the sprawling neighborhood.
The initiative is part of Operation Neptune, which hopes pacify the community before the Police Pacifying Unit (UPP) arrives at the beginning of 2014. However, some measures taken by security forces have been met with protest after 2,000 residents took to the streets against the heavy-handed tactics used by police.
Reports indicate around 250 police officers participated in the operation yesterday, which began in a fiercely-fought firefight. No police injuries were reported, but an unspecified amount of firearms and drugs were seized from the area. Police also recovered the remains of a decomposing body.
Undersecretary of Intelligence from the Department of State Security, Fábio Galvão, said that the main aims of the operation were to prevent any further bloodshed between two competing drug gangs for control of the area and bring greater safety to its populace.
“Complexo da Maré is being used as a warehouse for distribution of drugs by two gangs,” he told Rádio CBN in an interview. “The investigation, which began six months ago, showed that the [criminals] were coming to Rio seeking to procure and sell drugs,” adding that the Complexo da Maré had been made even more unsafe by “gangs who escorted the traffic in and out of the area.”
Public safety is high on the agenda of the Brazilian government and police force as the city prepares for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics amid an increased fear of civil unrest and uptick in violence.
Police first entered the neighborhood, made up of sixteen different favelas, in mid-April with a large police operation that ended in gunfire and two deaths. The neighborhood is often referred to as Rio’s headquarters of crack.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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