By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Almost one and a half years after occupation by the Brazilian Army, the favelas of Complexo do Alemão and Penha in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) are still awaiting the installation of Police Pacification Units (UPPs). The transition, which was originally scheduled for October 2011, had been delayed by Governor Sergio Cabral, allowing the army personnel who form the ‘peace force’ to remain for some time longer.
This will reportedly enable the army to assist the military police BOPE forces in implementing a strategy aimed at capturing remaining drug traffickers who are thought to be hiding within the twelve favela communities that form the Complexo do Alemão.
Details of the plan, which is also supported by the civil police, were released last week suggesting that the army is set to remain within the pacified favela communities until security has improved. Meanwhile, the BOPE continues to seek out traffickers, gang leaders and dealers as well as recover stolen weapons, drugs and any hidden ammunition they may encounter.
The decision to keep the army in Complexo do Alemão until the UPP’s have been set up is a cautionary move imposed by General Adriano Pereira Junior. The commander of the Eastern Military compound explains: “[We will] stay in the region until the situation is under [the] complete control of the state.”
According to an official contract signed last year, the army is scheduled to leave the complex by June 2012 although this date is already said to have been pushed back since plans for the UPP deployment are not yet even complete. The 2,200 officers who are to replace the military personnel are still undergoing training, according to recent reports.
As for the implementation, it is predicted that there will be twelve UPP stations installed throughout the regions of Complexo do Alemão and Penha.
However there is still one district of the favela that is yet to be brought under occupation. The ‘Morro Adeus’ will face operations by both the military and civil police, tasked with eradicating drug trafficking activities and the confiscation of weapons and drugs.
Recently it has been reported that the army are experiencing hostility from children and youths of the community, in response to the increased police patrols for remaining drug gangs.
The children, who are said to be provoking army officers with gang related hand gestures and launching missiles such as bottles, rocks and sometimes fireworks, are believed to be acting on behalf of the gangs themselves.
Pacification force commander Thomas Miguel Paiva explains “Our intelligence told us that the actions of hostility are orchestrated by the [drug trafficking gangs]… After all, we are spoiling their “business”.”
Since the dramatic battle and occupation of Complexo do Alemão, the military forces have reported seizing twelve rifles, seventeen pistols and revolvers, 18,000 bags of cocaine, 1,200 crack rocks, 54 kilos of marijuana, 1,100 bundles of hashish, as well as US$30,000 and almost R$90,000 in cash.