By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Two new Police Pacification Units (UPPs) were officially inaugurated by the Rio de Janeiro state government in the city’s Zona Norte (North Zone) neighborhoods of Complexo do Lins and Morro Camarista Méier on Monday, December 2nd. These are Rio’s 35th and 36th UPPs installed since the program began in 2008.
The UPPs will employ 480 officers to patrol the communities of Complexo do Lins, Morro Camarista Méier and the surrounding areas. An estimated combined population of over 25,000 residents currently call the areas home.
“What is happening today is the reunion of Rio itself,” said Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral. “All of this is a process. Today there is a police difference, but with daily challenges.”
“The UPPs will bring the residents of this region and surrounding communities more security, more calm, more silence for mothers to allow their children to move around freely,” he added.
UPPs, however, have faced growing scrutiny in recent months following the disappearance and later confirmed death of Rocinha bricklayer Amarildo de Souza. Twenty-five Military Police members were accused of torture over their involvement in Amarildo’s death. Rocinha’s UPP unit commander, Major Edson Santos, was imprisoned for his involvement in the scandal.
Additionally a recent report by the National Victimization Survey found that Military Police in Rio are the most corrupt in the country, a troubling finding for UPPs, which are run by that police force.
“We intend to develop our policing to facilitate dialogue with the locals,” said Captain Marlow Rock, said commander of the Complexo do Lins UPP. “We count on the support of the community and our police to do work based on trust and respect. In Lins, we will work with motorized policing and on foot to facilitate communication with the people residing in the region.”
During the inauguration, Secretary of State Security José Mariano Beltrame admitted that it would take time to rid the area of its reputation for violence.
“We know what happened and what happens here. We are making one building, which does not happen overnight. Not to say that you have no problems, but surely you will not have the problems you had before.”
Some residents welcomed the UPP’s arrival to their communities. “Today is the return of our right to come and go, this is the beginning of social change, quality of life, citizenship,” Ivanildo Severo, President of the Association of Residents of the communities of Camarista Méier, Oteiro and Ouro Preto, told the Rio state government press. “Peacemaking is an important social achievement. The best above all are the social projects.”
The communities are scheduled to receive major investments from the Accelerated Growth Program (PAC 2) which provides funds for social and infrastructure projects in Brazil.
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