By Shalina Chatlani, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For Dia das Criancias – or Children’s Day – held today on October 12th, the Pacifying Police Units (UPP) of Rio de Janeiro will be holding a special program to celebrate the holiday during the entire month of October. The UPP has organized a series of social and recreational activities involving; rides, face-painting, music, sports activities, and of course food.
Today there was an event including a band performing for the children of the Rocinha UPP which started at 10AM. Last Friday, nearly three hundred students signed up in UPP prevention projects from several neighborhoods attended a party in the São Carlos and Providência community.
According to Major Roberto Valente, the festivities further demonstrate the UPP’s credibility and commitment to the communities. “These actions and our more two hundred prevention projects, benefiting more than fourteen thousand residents, only show society’s confidence in the neighborhood policy,” said Valente.
In May Rio de Janeiro Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão (Bigfoot) announced that the final bases for the city’s new Pacifying Police Units would have to be constructed with urgency. The announcement was made due to conflicts between the police and alleged drug trafficking gangs, and an increase of civilians being caught in cross fire.
Pezão’s plans to increase UPPs units by nearly six thousand military policemen were developed after a conflict in Complexo do Alemão. A firefight between police and suspected drug traffickers resulted in several civilian deaths, including that of ten year-old Eduardo de Jesus.
The UPP program was begun almost seven years ago in Rio’s Santa Marta neighborhood on December 19, 2008. As a result, Santa Marta has thrived with both stable security and socio-economic gains. Although the UPP program has benefitted a number of communities, it remains controversial, as many neighborhoods, particularly in Zone Norte (North Zone), still live in a state of violence.