By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In one of the largest military operations since Brazil’s armed forces took over security of Rio de Janeiro six months ago, on Monday, August 20th, over 4,000 armed soldiers and about one hundred police officers descended on Complexo do Alemão, Complexo da Penha, and Complexo da Maré in a wide-ranging drug raid that left at least eleven suspects and two military personnel dead.
“Unfortunately, the irrational nature of the criminals is to promote confrontation,” explained military spokesperson, Colonel Carlos Cinelli to reporters.
The operation, which began early Monday morning, resulted in numerous reports of shootouts and gun fights within the 26 favela communities that make up the three complexos as suspected drug traffickers battled with military personnel.
“I awoke to the sound of shots and helicopters at 5 AM,” said one resident of Da Penha on social media. “A shot came from Alemão and hit the roof of my neighbor,” posted another resident.
Colonel Cinelli emphasized to reporters that the military did not incite the confrontations with the suspects. “They are not caused by us, but by the criminals, who do not have the slightest concern for the population,” he said. “We have a right to defend ourselves and we hope that [the shootouts] will decrease.”
“Our goal is only to make arrests. If there are deaths, the criminals are to blame.”
In all, 36 suspected drug traffickers were arrested in Monday’s operation. In addition, armed forces seized some 440 pounds of marijuana and netted various weapons including hand guns and grenades.
Brazil President Michel Temer ordered the military takeover of Rio de Janeiro’s public security sector on February 16th this year.
At the time, Rio was already in the midst of registering unprecedented surges in violence and crime with some categories reaching near thirty-year highs.
Brazil’s public security minister Raul Jungmann announced Saturday that as of December this year, the military will no longer be in charge of security forces in Rio de Janeiro state.
Jungmann said in an interview with the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that he proposed extending the military intervention for another year, but the armed forces rejected the idea.