By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A large-scale operation named Operação Guilhotina (Operation Guillotine), conducted last week by Brazil’s Polícia Federal (Federal Police), the country’s federal investigation bureau, has so far led to the arrests of 38 people in Rio de Janeiro due to their involvement with criminal gangs and activities.
Thirty of the arrested are police officers, and eight are civilians, while seven of the 45 arrest warrants issued remain outstanding. 580 agents have been mobilized for the operation that began on February 11th, and raided several police stations in various neighborhoods of Rio.
Among the arrested was Carlos Antônio de Oliveira, the former deputy chief of Polícia Civil (Civil Police), who used to hold a high-ranking position in the city’s Secretariat of Public Order until he was fired by the mayor Eduardo Paes upon his arrest.
Allan Turnowski, who used to be the Chief of Polícia Civil until this week, announced his resignation on Tuesday, despite the lack of formal accusations against him, as his former deputy Oliveira’s arrest caused a crisis within the department.
Operação Guilhotina aims to expose and eradicate police corruption that empowers the criminal gangs. The accusations that led to the issue of the warrants include receiving bribes from drug and weapons traffickers, providing criminals with information and protection, supporting militias, as well as involvement with prostitution and illegal gambling.
The officers were also accused of reselling the weapons and drugs that were confiscated during the city-wide conflicts last November that led to big police operations in Vila Cruzeiro and Complexo do Alemão.
“This was the first step towards rooting out the corrupt police in the state of Rio de Janeiro,” said Ângelo Fernando Goia, the commander of Polícia Federal that led the operation.
Brazil’s Minister of Defense, Nelson Jobim reiterated the importance of conducting rigorous public investigations. “We need to catch [the corrupt officers]; we need to put them in jail,” he said. “This will enable the identification of the internal problems within the police.”
Operação Guilhotina follows an investigation that began in 2009, with information that was uncovered during another police operation in Rocinha, Rio’s largest favela, and has involved phone taps and informants that led the investigators to the suspects.
“Nowhere in the world can the police make progress when they have this kind of people in their ranks,” said Jose Mariano Beltrame, the state security secretary of Rio, and added: “Such an operation may not be good for the image of the police, but in time it will be very beneficial.”
Beltrame has also stated that investigations on police officers were continuing, and new operations would take place in the near future. “I want the police officers to feel that they are being monitored,” he said. “This is a structural change.”
The operation comes at a critical time for Rio de Janeiro, in which the city has been trying to clean itself up and restore its image, due to the international scrutiny it faces as the host of the 2014 World Cup finals and 2016 Olympics.