By Patricia Maresch, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In November 2010, thousands of members of the Rio police force and the Brazilian army were mobilized for a massive operation in the Complexo do Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro in the Zona Norte (North zone). Now, amongst recent allegations of misconduct, pressure is on to bring the UPP (Police Pacification Units) into the area quickly.
Since early December, approximately 2,400 troops have been present in the morros (hills), to keep the area secure. The special Peace Force is composed of Army paratroopers and civil and military police.
Their mission to make sure the drug traffickers do not return and prepare the area for the installation of the UPP later this year.
On the surface it appears to be go smoothly, however, the Army has started an investigation against thirty soldiers on suspicion of theft. In the first week of January a complaint was filed against a platoon of the Parachutist Brigade on the accusation of stealing an air-conditioner and other objects from a house in the favela Fazendinha, at the Complexo do Alemão.
In addition, 23 policemen who work in the same area are to be immediately removed on grounds of stealing. The commander of the peacekeeping force, General Fernando José Lavaquial Sardenberg, said that if the military are proven guilty it may result in their expulsion from the Army.
The Army has started another investigation concerning the return of the drug traffickers to the area. Despite the occupation of the favelas by the special Peace Force, it has been reported that confidential documents from the Army Intelligence Center report that the trafficking of drugs has returned to the Complexo do Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro.
According to the report, the drug gangs have adopted a system of passwords clients must use before they can buy drugs, and street vendors are said to be active as well. Several residents of Vila Cruzeiro who want to remain anonymous have told that the lower part of the favela looks as if there are no drug traffickers in the favela. But once you go uphill some bocas de fumo, drug selling points, have reopened and are back in business.
Rio’s Governor Sérgio Cabral has not set an exact date yet for the installation of the UPP in the area. Although he was recently at the inauguration ceremony of a new office of the Banco do Brasil in the favela Morro de Adeus at the Complexo do Alemão.
In recent days new confrontations occurred between the Elite Troops BOPE and members of drug factions in favelas outside of the Complexo do Alemão. Cabral said he considers these confrontations the last reactions of the drug traffickers because they know that their time has finished.
Until the installation of the UPP in the Complexo do Alemão and Vila Cruzeiro, the area will stay under control of special Army and police troops, stated Cabral.