By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After almost a week of violence, and an ultimatum issued on Saturday to armed fugitives for surrender, the police continued efforts in securing the city against drug trafficker’s terrorism. By the end of the day Sunday, they had taken over the vast Alemão’s slum complex, one of the biggest drug dealer strongholds in the city.

Police takes over in Alemao
Police advances in Complexo o Alemão, photo by Agência Brasil/Creative Commons License.

Different divisions of state and federal police joined armed forces on a 2,700 men strong coordinated action against the city’s drug traffickers, a cohesive operation as never seen before in Rio.

At 7:50AM the Policia Civil (Civil Police) aided by armored helicopters advanced, followed by the Marine’s tanks, military police, jungle police specialized in forest combat, and other security services with the aim to secure the entire area and surrounding forest, where criminals escaping from the police invasion in Vila Cruzeiro last Friday were spotted by a press helicopter.

With a less than expected resistance from the bandits, although not free of confrontations, at 8:12AM the police had already taken control of a strategic area known as Areal at the center of Alemão’s vast favela network. Along the way the police were making arrests as well as confiscating large quantities of drugs and finding stock-piles of weapons.

Police action coexisted with the community during the day's assault on favela drug-dealer strongholds, image recreation.

During the conflict, a total of three casualties were reported, and many of the armed criminals had abandoned their weapons and fled due to fear of the police siege. By 4PM, Zeu, one of the most infamous and dangerous of Rio’s gangsters who was convicted of torturing and killing Globo TV’s journalist Tim Lopes in 2002, was arrested.

The police this time seemed to have the support of the community, who stayed put and through the Disque-denúncia (Dial-denounce) service, aided the police occupation with tips on where criminals were hding. Several letters of support demonstrating their relief with the end of the dealers dominance in their communities have been broadcast by the Brazilian media.

As the day progressed more and more was revealed about the drug dealer’s operation. Among those were a dealer shelter for visiting bandits, a trafficker’s social club with swimming pool, a weapons repair workshop, drug and weapons deposits and a luxurious mansion, home of one boss, equipped with several large plasma screen TVs, swimming pool and central air conditioning system.

Police operation in Rio
Part of the forty tons of drugs apprehended this Sunday in major police operation in Complexo do Alemão, photo by Agência Brasil/Creative Commons License.

A thorough house-to-house search which started on the onset of the invasion is still being carried out and is expected to continue for several days, searching for hidden drugs, hideouts, weapons, dealers and their accomplices. Forty tons of marijuana, and around 200 kg of cocaine among other drugs have been seized by the end of the Sunday.

The government authorities appear to understand that social projects have to come with security policies, and in an official note, Eduardo Paes, the city’s mayor, unveiled a multi-million Reais plan to develope the communities in Penha area, with urbanization, new schools, health, education and recreational facilities to be implemented within the next three years.

The government of Rio de Janeiro’s message to organized crime in the city is clear, they want to put an end to the reign and terror imposed on residents. Rio de Janeiro State’s governor Sérgio Cabral declared that police and armed forces will be there to stay, and this operation is a decisive step on security strategies that have been already implanted in town, further guaranteeing this is just the beginning paving the way to a safer Rio.

International media remains transfixed as the tourist season begins and plans continue for the 2014 World Cup finals and 2016 Olympics. Fortunately despite the blatant terrorism tactics and sensational violence in Zona Norte (North zone), most of the city was not directly involved and affluent neighborhoods and most areas frequented by tourists remained relatively unaffected.


  1. there is a rumor that many gang leaders escaped through the storm drains and sewage tunnels, which is why so few were captured; if this is true, it bodes ill for the future.
    if it’s true, it also casts doubt on the competence of a plan to “surround” a favela without checking all the potential exits.

  2. No doubt, many of us are still sceptical, but nonetheless is a great start before they wouldn’t go as far.

    Specially that the quantity of weapons found was not significative enough compared to what gangs normally have and not much money have been found.

    Either way South Zone was unscathed and probably many will carry on consuming drugs and supporting the traffickers business, unfortunately.

    Cariocas and government are very happy and see this a step in the right direction, only that.

    The whole thing must seem incompetent for lots and almost insane because it was allowed to get this bad.

    But our history and culture have to be visited in order to understand why there is a reason to commemorate.

  3. They say, some, not many have escaped through the sewers which I find rather doubtfull. Most will have fled this morning as many people left the Favela to work as it’s impossible to thoroughly check everyone. The boss left yesterday during a peace manifestation woth PAZ painted on his face. Others stayed and are hiding in the woods or in houses in the Favela itself and will be found, just like the weapons.
    It’s good to see the government has got it’s act together.

  4. Many fled to Rocinha, where they are aligned with ADA in some kind of truce.

    Lilly – People also consume alcohol and cigarettes, which support (via taxes) a different group of bandidos, haha…

  5. From the beginning, there was no attempt to capture to bigger drug dealers…just move them. As always, no sign of the R$ !
    It looks like the state authorities want to take control of the drug business. The cash is just to huge to sacrifice.

  6. I lived in Rio de Janeiro for 22 years. I spent my entire life watching – through TV and in real life – how these drug dealers imposed their will and how our population became neutralized by fear of violence and lack of support from politicians.

    I truly hate criminals. I do not see them as human. A man who sets buses full of people on fire, burning most of them alive, is not human. Nothing but a pest that has to be exterminated.

    BOPE is the only thing in RJ that gives us hope. Those guys are true Brazilian heroes and only two types of people don’t like them: drug dealers and dug addicts. Sociologists condemn the actions of BOPE and I do agree that a civilized society should never condone killings without trials… but our politicians have allowed RJ to become non-civilized.

    Death to all of them. Torture the ones still alive so they can turn their non-human friends in. Kill them all. Bury them alive. We do not need them. No society needs drug dealers.

    Unfortunately, while people in Penha, Caxias, Vidigal and other poor communities suffer, “playboys” in Barra, Recreio, Ipanema and other wealthy neighborhoods still buy pot and coke… because they are cool.

    Help save Rio de Janeiro: kill a pot head each day!!
    Drugs would have no value if nobody bought them…
    Have you ever seen “dog shit dealers”???

  7. James,
    I am from the US and have lived here in Rio for years. I would much rather have the Olympic games be here in Rio than in Chicago, especially in terms of a destination that would attract spectators and tourists. Just like in Chicago, the crime and violence in Rio is usually isolated to pretty specific areas and neighborhoods. The areas where the majority of the Olympic events are schedule to take place are nowhere near where this concentration of violence is. Oh yeah, and the Olympics are FIVE years away…

  8. Diego, I’m sorry but the analogy is not good because two wrongs do not make one right, drug consumption support the armed terrorist traffickers.

    If you are referring to many corrupt politicians in Brasilia they will also be eventually be wiped out.

  9. Spot on James.

    It’s surprising a city like Rio with it’s horrendous crime levels beat Chicago to host the olympics. Chicago on the other hand is perfectly safe and would’ve been a more suitable location.

    On top of that, how many of the slum dwellers are going to be forcibly moved, murdered or ‘disappeared’ from now to 2016?? It was a terrible decision by the IOC.

  10. You can have the Olympics in Chicago, fine with me..! Rio has bigger and more important things to take care of… however, Cabral and Paes are only concerned with their political careers.

    Lily – that’s kind of self-righteous to condemn all drug users – not all drugs are necessarily bad. Many intelligent and educated people with good jobs, like to enjoy their weekends. So what’s the problem..? The trafficantes are just a scapegoat for the bigger social problems in Rio… not to mention to massive political corruption.

    Brian – you are a fool. If you are against drugs, fine – but at least try to express yourself in a more intelligent way.

  11. Diego:

    i will express myself truthfully and honestly.
    the way i express myself is nothing but a reflection of my disgust. i was born and raised in RJ. lived there for 22 years. left the place where i was born bc i was simply sick and tired of violence. i feel as a refugee of urban violence.

    if you think i’m a fool or not, this is your business. but it’s really ODD that the same person who wants to “keep all the sex tourists concentrated” can call anyone a fool.

    as far as i can see, based on the things you said (if I AM against drugs, fine…) YOU, DIEGO, are nothing but a pot head! you are the reason why drug dealers exist. and i reiterate what i wrote once: there is no such thing as dog-poop-dealer because nobody wants to buy dog poop.

    you, pot-head-piece-of-_____, are the reason why i left my country and don’t feel safe enough to live in RJ ever again.

    if i ever find you at the beach smoking pot and blowing a whistle to alert other pot heads of the police’s presence i will crack your head open.

    btw… im going to BR in may… perhaps you wanna show up there and show me how much of a fool i am…

  12. Firstly, the comment about ‘keeping sex tourists in one place’ was kind of a joke… take it easy. As a foreigner myself, i find it shameful the number of foreign sex tourists who come to Rio – totally embarrassing and i want no part in that. So even though i was kidding around, there was actually some logic to what i said – about these sleazy gringos staying in one place (i.e. Help) as opposed to coming to Lapa and elsewhere and looking for hookers there.

    Secondly, yeah… i like to indulge in certain substances once in a while – so you could say that i’m ‘supporting’ the trafficantes. But so what..? In many ways, they contribute more to the communities than the government – and certainly more than the corrupt and abusive police. And they throw awesome baile funk parties also. In my opinion, the real criminals are the government – for failing to address the real social problems (lack of basic infrastructure and lack of quality schools and hospitals).

    Sure thing man… we can meet up. How about at the baile funk at the top of the morro in Rocinha on Saturday night – shall we say, 3am..?

  13. as i thought and said…

    u’re the reason why there’s such thing as drug dealers, drug cartels and drug-related deaths in Brazil and everywhere else. “but so what?”, right? what do you care? you only want to get high… nothing else.

    drug dealers do not contribute to communities.. they pay people off with rice and beans… then, they take their kids into drug gangs and have them become drug dealers and murderers… of course i cannot blame poor people who do not have money to buy their own groceries for accepting rice and beans or aspirin from ANYONE…

    but i said it once and will say it again… u’re the reason why drug dealers exist and not only you condone drug use, you also sound pretty happy with it….

  14. While The Rio Times is happy to inspire dialogue and community around news in Rio, we ask our Readers to refrain from personal attacks and profanity in Comments posted. Let’s keep it clean please.

    Thank you,

    Stone Korshak,
    Editor and Publisher
    The Rio Times

  15. Brian – It’s funny how people like you tend to blame trafficantes for all of Rio’s problems. But where is your outrage at the broken healthcare system..? Are you aware that there are people literally dying in the emergency wards of public hospitals in the Baixada..? Or did your parents buy you private medical insurance as a kid, so that you’ve never had to experience the public system..? And what about the public school system which is also completely broken..? Or did you attend a private school, instead of a public classroom with like 50 kids and a semi-motivated teacher..?

    Instead of accusing trafficantes and their consumers of being the problems of Rio – try looking at the bigger picture – and at your corrupt government, which is the real problem. There is no shortage of money either, as Brazil’s and Rio’s economies are booming.

    I’m not saying that trafficantes running the favela is the best situation – but it’s much much better than having corrupt and abusive police in the form of a UPP. Did you see in the news yesterday about a Policia Civil arrested for operating a prostitution ring here in Rio..? And these are the ‘protectors’ we are supposed to trust in..? I was in Rocinha last night and people seemed pretty content with the way things are. I’m doubt that everyone loves the trafficantes, but i’m sure that they’re preferred over the police.

    And yes, i am in favor of non-addictive drugs (marijuana, ecstasy). However, i am totally against addictive drugs (crack, speed, heroin). As for cocaine, that’s kind of a grey-area… so i don’t know where i stand on that one. Seems like most users don’t get addicted, but sometimes people do… so i don’t know.

  16. @ Diego.

    I think you took me wrongly in there, I’m not condemning anything, but merely stating a fact.

    I do not have a problem with what people decide as their recreation, I do however have against that in this particular case (Rio), there is a reality where drug dealers are a violent and unscrupulous bunch, and if you consume their products consequently you are somehow, condoning their actions.

    If you wanna get stoned with your home grown pot, I see no harm done to others.

  17. Haha, that’s a valid suggestion… but most people wouldn’t know where to begin with growing their own pot. Of course, this brings up the question of legalization as per Holland and California…

  18. diego is just a little pot head on a trip…
    the kid condones drug dealing… takes sides with drug dealers in the place where i lived my whole life… and attempts to tell me the government is wrong and drug dealers help their communities…

    using your own words… u’re a “foreigner”…

    u do not know my country, my people nor the societal dynamics that shape slums and the eternal generational poverty that reigns in Brazil.

    u’re just a pot head…

    keep in touch with me… i am going to rio… let’s see how tough u are to meet me 1on1 away from the drug dealers who sell you pot.

    enjoy your baile funks until the day you get shot, intentionally or not… i hope this day comes soon for you… you deserve all the misery anyone can get.

  19. Since my other comment was censored, i’ll just say that Brian – i think it’s extremely ironic that you condemn trafficantes for violence, while suggesting that the government and police should authorize torture against them. Your comments against me are also ridiculous. I’m not even offended. it’s just funny, that you’re all anti-trafficante / anti-violence… yet you want to threaten me..? Nice one…

  20. My Goodness. How can anyone in their right mind take the side of dangerous criminals? The time when slum’s leadership protected their community is long gone. That might have been true in the sixties but we are not living the “Orfeu Negro” these days. These guys do not protect their community, they protect themselves and use the community as they please. And we all know what these criminals do to anyone who dare to try to expose them, don’t we?

    The government certainly shares a good deal of blame for the overall violence, but they seem to be trying to do the right thing this time around and I sincerely hope that they succeed. Changes have to start somewhere and I feel like this government is trying. Can we all say the same?

  21. I don’t know about Amsterdam, but in California the use of marijuana is RESTRICTED as a PAIN medication, which requires a prescription by a physician. The “recreational” use of marijuana is still illegal in California.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

nineteen − ten =