By William Jones, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Christmas morning in the pacified favela community of Rocinha was marred by confrontations between police and suspected drug traffickers which resulted in two casualties and a UPP (Police Pacification Unit) patrol vehicle being vandalized. Police had gone to check on reports that illegal drugs were being sold on site, and when they arrived the scene turned violent.
According to reports, the conflict occurred in Rocinha’s Rua do Valão, near the area known as Largo do Boiadeiro. When the police checked a complaint regarding allegations a resident had been selling drugs, a backpack containing illegal substances and ammunition was seized. A spokesperson of the UPP said the shooting flared up around 12:30 PM Midday.
The man identified as Alex Monteiro Duarte, 21, from Rocinha shot several glass bottles leading to the injury of the soldier Carlos Gustavo Alves dos Reis on the head. Durate, wounded by a bullet which grazed his face, was treated at the Hospital Miguel Couto for injuries sustained in the gun fight.
Criminals reportedly shot at least fifteen times toward the police and officer Carlos Gustavo needed seven stitches in his head. A car belonging to the Policia Militar had all of its glass shattered in the exchange.
According to reports, officer Gustavo, was assaulted by a group of thirty people, including residents and suspected traffickers, after the seizure of the backpack with drugs and weapons. “I was assaulted with iron bars, beer boxes and bricks. Thirty people were against only eight officers,” said one of the officers present at the scene.
Just this month a study stated the number of reported homicides in Rio’s pacified favelas decreased by approximately 65 percent between the years of 2008, when the city’s Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) first began, and 2012. However many critics are voicing public unrest, alarmed at the oppressive tactics and corruption that the police are known for in Rio.
Especially in Rocinha, where earlier this year after the disappearance of bricklayer Amarildo de Souza, public outcry brought demonstrations demanding justice. Although police initially denied involvement, de Souza was later declared dead with 25 Military Police members accused of torture and involvement in his murder.
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