By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Some 2,000 soldiers from the Polícia Militar (Military Police, PM) took part in an operation on Sunday to recapture a favela area illegally set up on private land in the area known as Pinheirinho in São José dos Campos – a town some 60 miles (97km) east of São Paulo, 170 miles (250km) west of Rio de Janeiro.
Troops entered the Pinheirinho site to evict the settlers using riot gear, armored vehicles and two helicopters. Running battles subsequently spilled out onto the streets and cars were set on fire.
Sixteen arrests were made during the operation. Injuries were reported and the city health department said at least one person was wounded seriously after being shot.
Live rounds were not used by authorities during the operation, only tear gas and rubber bullets, a police spokesperson said.
The area was first occupied some eight years ago, and until the operation some 1,600 families – around 5,500 people – were said to be living on the site illegally. All of these will now be moved to a location on 0.4 square miles (1km²) of land to be “reintegrated.”
Since last week, residents are said to have set up barricades in preparation for the eviction. During the conflict with the police, residents used improvised weapons and shields.
The community leaders say the families now have nowhere to go, and are in effect being made homeless. But officials says they are allocating new homes for those displaced during the operation, including help with food, transportation and support to protect their property.
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