By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A clash between police and alleged drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro lead to the wounding of four military police officers in Complexo do Alemão on Monday, December 8th. The clash broke out on Monday afternoon, when military police officers (MPs) from the Nova Brasília Police Pacification Unit (UPP) arrested three men in the area who were allegedly in possession of drugs and a homemade bomb.
Following their detainment, shots were fired at the officers, one MP was hit and injured. Around 10PM, three additional MPs were shot when the alleged traffickers again opened fire. One officer was shot in the chest and remains in serious condition at the time of this report. The remaining three injured MPs were treated and released.
The shootings come during a period of increased tension between residents of Rio’s pacified communities and the UPP program. Attacks on UPP officers, buildings and cars have increased in 2014, with police deaths in the first three months of this year outnumbering the total of officer deaths recorded during all of 2013. More than 106 officer killings have been recorded during 2014, with eighteen of those deaths occurring while officers were on duty.
In September of this year, 26 members of a Complexo do Alemão gang were apprehended, accused of homicides against MPs, including the death of former Nova Brasília UPP Captain, Uanderson Manoel da Silva. The Nova Brasília UPP is one of several units located Complexo do Alemão. The UPP program began in Rio de Janeiro in 2008 as an initiative for law enforcement to reclaim territories from gangs and traffickers in the city’s favela communities.
The Complexo do Alemão is a group of favela communities in Rio’s Zona North (North Zone) which is home to an estimated 120,000 residents. It was the scene of the dramatic 2010 military action aimed at routing our entrenched drug traffickers from a previously minimally policed (or socially represented) part of the city. Years later some effort has been made to increase public services but violence, including accusations of police misconduct, remain serious issues for the community.