By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A war between drug gang factions in the Cidade Alta of Cordovil, in the Zona Norte (North Zone) of Rio de Janeiro, ended yesterday (May 2nd) with at least eight buses and two trucks burned, 45 people arrested and six wounded, including three policemen, who are in stable condition.
Authorities report that in all, 32 rifles, grenades and pistols were seized. More than 3,000 children were without school classes in the region, according to the state and municipal secretariats of education.
Major Ivan Blaz, Communications Coordinator for the polícia militar (PM, or military police), reported that at around 3AM, residents of Cordovil called for help by telephone, informing the police that a rival faction of the community of Cidade Alta tried to take over territorial control of the area.
“We were surrounded, and once surrounded, the invading criminals triggered community residents who are under the influence of this faction to promote urban riots and chaos in the city in order to disperse policing into the siege and promote opportunity for escape,” said Blaz.
Also according to the major, the number of prisoners and arms seized demonstrates that the police action was successful. However, Blaz stressed that the numbers show a cruel reality in the state.
“We are one of the main destinations of international arms trafficking, which exposes the fragility of our borders,” said the major. “This forces the military police to deal with an evil that no policeman faces in the world. Here, the policeman is always accustomed to hearing guns.”
State Secretary of Security, Roberto Sá, spoke at a press conference after and explained that there was an order for a criminal faction in Rio to invade and retake the area of the Cidade Alta, which was once their control in the past, lost to members of the current rival criminal group.
According to Roberto Sá, the police operation was successful, despite three policemen injured, not fatally, and the death of two people suspected of being linked to the trafficking.
“The [police] have already identified some of the perpetrators of the crimes. They will be indicted, probably charged and arrested. They are identifying people who set fire to the buses and mapping the weapons, one by one,” said Sá.
Secretary Sá called for tougher penal legislation though, calling the penalties for those who carry rifles or burn buses ‘ridiculous’. He explained, “It is necessary that other bodies and powers give instruments to the police to work.”
Adding, “I speak of a police officer who is not receiving the thirteenth [salary], without receiving the system of goals and that will complete a year without receiving the Olympic RAS [Additional Service Regime, extra time for work in the Olympics].”
He also admitted that federal aid could be useful, both through the support of the Armed Forces, as it has occurred in the past, in the control of favela complexes, and in the reinforcement of the Federal Highway Police (PRF), responsible for controlling the highways that link the state to the rest of the country.
According to him, it is still possible to rescue the project of the Pacifying Police Units (UPPs), currently under heavy attack by criminals. “The idea is to try to save them. For the benefit of the good people, who are vast majority in those regions.”
“I admit we have to review [the UPPs]. We created a multidisciplinary working group, to make a diagnosis of each UPP. To check on the problems and how we can focus on solving those demands. In relation to the support of the Armed Forces, we had experience in Complexo do Alemão and Maré. [The Armed Forces] help, but they do not solve, “said Sá.
Cidade Alta is a set of communities and housing complexes formed by Porto Velho (Pé Sujo or PS), Vista Mar (Bancários), Favela Divinéia, Favela Avilã, Favela Serra Pelada and Favela Vila Cambuci.
The area in Zona Norte is just off the Ilha do Governador, where the Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport is, popularly known by its original name Galeão.