By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Government news agency, Agência Brasil, reported that since the Army’s occupation of the Complexo da Maré favela community in Rio last March (three months before the World Cup), the “pacification force” has created a war zone which accounts for 28 murders, twelve dead in Maré and sixteen within the complex surrounding.
Social development organizations, Redes de Desenvolvimento da Maré and Observatório de Favelas held a press conference yesterday (November 5th) with neighborhood associations to condemn the hardships and abuses suffered at the hands of soldiers.
President of the Residents Association in the area Pedro Francisco, said the region lost the peace and tranquility since the arrival of the military. “It is now seven months that the Army is in our community and we have lost our privacy. [They] have breached the gates, broken locks, stopped projects because young people can not get around,” he said.
Community representative of the favela Vila do João, Marco Antônio Barcellos Gomes also criticized aa attitude of the soldiers who, according to him, enter houses without a warrant. “They entered five times in my son’s house, I saw the army trying to break into the gate of a citizen, and spoke with them and they said they would arrest me for membership to the drug trade…”.
Jonata de Azevedo, of the favela community Salsa and Merengue, in Vila do Pinheiro, complained the barricade mounted in front of the daycare Albano Rosa, blocking the bike path, and the blatant way the military has been acting. “The Army walks boasting the firepower, the community is afraid.”
A community resident in Conjunto Nova Esperança, Fidelina Rocha da Silva, 43, said her daughter, age twelve, was tackled and injured by soldiers for being undocumented. “It was on the 16th of July, my daughter was twelve years old at the bakery and was stopped, they requested her documents, she said she didn’t have them, then the soldiers spoke several expletives and that next time they would take her and her mother. She came home pale, trembling. Since then I have a twelve year old girl who does not leave home, or want to go to church.”
On March 30th, nearly one thousand Military Police special forces officers accompanied by armored Navy tanks entered Rio’s Complexo da Maré to occupy the region. Just days before President Dilma Rousseff signed a Garantia da Lei e da Ordem/GLO (Guarantee of Law and Order), allowing the involvement of Armed Forces during acts which combat organized crime within Rio de Janeiro.
Consisting of fifteen favelas located between the Rio highways of Avenida Brasil and the Linha Vermelha, Complexo da Maré is a large area with an estimated 100,000 residents. At the time, then-Governor Sérgio Cabral promised a “social occupation” of the region, with school and daycare center improvements are planned as well as additions to children’s health and recreation services and other social services for the community.
The Pacification Force of Maré was contacted by Agência Brasil about the community denouncements but reportedly did not respond.