By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Santa Marta favela community celebrated the seventh anniversary of Rio’s first Police Pacification Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, or UPP), which was installed December 19, 2008. While Brazil and Rio struggle with a reversal of economic conditions since then, the event was an opportunity to appreciate the positive progress for the community.
The anniversary was held in Praça Corumbá, and offered a parade, cakes, games and lots of fun for the kids. According to some of the children, the best of thing about the event was Santa Claus who brought toys which were collected in a donation drive organized by the UPP.
“I was already finding it very nice to play on the slide and football (soccer) box, but the coolest was Santa Claus, of course” a young Anna Clara told local government press.
The anniversary event also had a more somber side, and early in the morning, a civic parade paid tribute to the families of policemen killed on duty throughout the year 2015. “This was a very difficult year, we lost many friends in uniform,” said the commander of the UPP, Lieutenant Tatiana Lime.
Adding, “Our intention here is to show to family members present the respect and admiration we have for professionals who gave their lives for peace and also to show the public the human side of the police approach.”
Grateful for the excellent work done to date there, the state security secretary, Jose Mariano Beltrame, stressed the spirit of the celebration. “The Santa Marta UPP is a milestone for the Rio de Janeiro because it was here that the pacification project started.”
“The least we can do is relive it, coming here to thank the police and the community, passing to them a boost. [We have reached] seven years, but we also mark the end of one period and the beginning of another,” said the secretary.
Entrepreneurs from the community, and surrounding neighborhoods close to Santa Marta, were responsible for sponsoring the children’s festivities. Irci Brito, a resident of Laranjeiras, said “I feel very honored to participate in this event, because [everyone] needs to pay attention to the people who are around you.”
Brito added, “Unfortunately, nowadays there is a lot of social inequality. I invited many friends to join sponsoring children also, I hope everyone understands how much this attitude contributes to a better world.”