By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – National security forces are employing operations in the Vila do João favela community, part of the Complexo da Maré in Zona Norte (North Zone) of Rio de Janeiro, twenty minutes from the Maracanã Stadium where the Olympic Games Opening ceremony was held five days earlier.
The military action is in response to yesterday’s shooting attack on soldiers that mistakenly entered the Vila do João neighborhood by local drug gangs, referred to as traficantes.
The soldiers were shot at when they took a wrong turn following a mobile navigation app, and entering the favela community by accident, according to the Civil Police.
The Minister of Justice, Alexandre de Moraes, said that the soldiers that gunned down by drug dealers were victims of “an unfortunate and cowardly complication” when they entered Vila do João.
The justice minister said the soldier Hélio Vieira, from Brazil’s northernmost state of Roraima, was wounded in the head and was being operated on for more than two hours at the Municipal Hospital Salgado Filho. The other wounded soldier is doing well and suffered only a flesh wound and should be released from the Municipal Hospital Evandro Freire, on Ilha do Governador. A third soldier suffered no injuries.
Moraes met with the Minister of Institutional Security Cabinet, Sergio Etchegoyen, the Center for Integrated Command and Control (CICC), “to analyze the facts and respond quickly to society.” Moraes told government news sources that the state security forces are in place and two suspected of participating in the action have been identified “and we will act to hold these people quickly.”
Complexo da Maré is a large area with over 100,000 residents that is made up of fifteen favelas located between the Rio roads of Avenida Brasil and the Linha Vermelha, which connects the city to the GIG Galeão/Tom Jobim international airport. In March 2014, just over two months before the World Cup started in Brazil, nearly one thousand Military Police special forces officers accompanied by armored Navy tanks entered Rio’s Complexo da Maré to occupy the region as part of the UPP “pacification” program.
At the time, the-governor of Rio de Janeiro Sérgio Cabral emphasized the size of the area, “The Complexo da Maré is a city, […] the state of Rio has 92 cities and maybe eighty percent of those cities don’t have 120,000 inhabitants [like Complexo da Maré].”
Since 2008, the UPP program has redefined the uneasy co-existence between the city’s favela communities, where nearly 25 percent of the residents live, primarily with security forces. The results of the program have been mixed, with some studies showing decreases in crime in UPP areas and desire to have it continue.
According to the FGV survey last month, 75.8 percent of favela residents want the program to remain, however 43.4 percent are reported to fear the program will end following the 2016 Olympics. Yet other studies have shown that despite the increased police presence, some UPP areas have seen an increase in violent crime and homicide.