By Nathan Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Almost a year after police forces invaded the vast sprawling community, the notorious and often violent favela Rocinha is slated to receive its incoming Police Pacifying Unit (UPP) today. The unit, comprised of around 700 military police, is milestone in the peace process that just a short while ago seemed improbable.
Yet, the new unit will arrive among a spate of violence in the area, including the recent killing of a patrolling officer, that makes clear the city’s pacification process that started nearly four years ago, will continue to be face challenges.
Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame is looking beyond the recent tragedies in Rocinha that have raised serious questions about the potential for stability in the area.
“It is very sad to lose an officer in this situation. But we can not kid ourselves, the population has lived in this way for three, four decades. It is a process, things are settling,” Beltrame said in an interview with CBN radio.
Rocinha, home to around 70,000-100,000 residents, the second largest in Latin America, is one of a handful of favela communities in Rio that the government UPP program has struggled with, Complexo do Alemão and Mangueira in Zona Norte (North Zone) have been among the worst.
For Beltrame, success in Rocinha signals the paradigm shift in the relationship between the long marginalized favela and the rest of Zona Sul (South Zone).
“Rocinha has its emblematic character as well as Mangueira and Alemão. But in my view the UPP Rocinha is one more. We can not differentiate,” said Beltrame. ”It is no joke to break paradigms that have been around for decades. You need to act calmly.”
According to O Globo, the UPP will be inaugurated today in Vila Cruzeiro, the first step in an evolving plan to bring lasting peace to the area.
“The UPP is this window of opportunity,” said Beltrame.”The solution is to give dignity to the people. If you go there you will see a very poor environment, lack of infrastructure too. The police are there to change the scenario. Occupy is the easy part, to consolidate is the hardest.”
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