By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The series of violent attacks and confrontations that have blazed across Rio in the past week prompted officials to conduct the largest police operations in its history. Multiple organizations collaborated to pursue and overwhelm armed gangs of drug-dealers and criminals that have long since controlled large favela areas of the city.

Soldiers of the Brazilian Army during the operation at Complexo do Alemão favelas, photo by Marcello Casal Jr./ABr.

The city’s Polícia Militar (PM, Military Police) initiated the operation Fecha Quartel (Closed Quarters) on the third day of the attacks, calling all police officers to duty, including those who were on leave and vacation.

According to PM spokesman Colonel Lima Castro, they had to take such drastic measures in order to pave the way for tactics that will be carried out later this year. The department recognizes the need to hire 7,000 new police officers in order to be able to effectively conduct patrols and future operations in the city.

Throughout the past week, the PM, which is the state entity responsible for primary policing duties, was assisted by the Polícia Civil (Civil Police), which acts as a state bureau of investigation, as well as the Polícia Federal (Federal Police).

Police forces conducting searches at Complexo do Alemão for criminals in hiding, drugs, weapons, and ammunition, photo by Marcello Casal Jr./ABr.

When the conflict intensified between the police and the heavily armed criminals in the favela of Vila Cruzeiro, the governor of the state of Rio, Sérgio Cabral, asked for help from federal authorities, and President Lula approved Defense Minister Nelson Jobim’s decision to send 800 Brazilian Army soldiers to assist the security forces in the city.

Jobim declared the measure necessary to “ensure the protection of the areas occupied by the police.” He further stated that the collaboration of the Armed Forces along with Marine and Air Force artillery, were determining factors in facilitating the police penetration of the Complexo do Alemão favelas, a well-known hub for criminal activities.

The Ministry of Defense has ordered the Armed Forces to stay and continue assisting the Military and Civil Police in Rio, until the state authorities determines the next steps to be taken to maintain order in the city.

Police officers of the UPP that was inaugurated at Morro dos Macacos in Vila Isabel on Tuesday, photo by Marcello Casal Jr./ABr.

Cabral, meanwhile, held a meeting with president-elect Dilma Rousseff in Brasília on Monday, and later announced that at least 2,000 Armed Forces soldiers would collaborate on the pacification of the favelas of Complexo do Alemão, which is set to be completed within the first half of 2011.

The governor defended the model adopted for the pacification of Rio’s favelas, which is done by implementing Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPPs, Police Pacification Units), stating that it “has existed for two years, and has worked.”

Cabral also expressed concern about the infrastructure that the state will need to host the 2016 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, He said that “the work of three decades will need to be done in six years” in the areas of sanitation and urban mobility, in addition to public security.


  1. It’s been great work done by the authority to keep the country against all kind of evil activities. We want a safe and sound world for our next generation to breath in a safe and beautiful world.

  2. These disasters are the harvest of the Brazilian givernment allowing such terrible favelas to exist at all: these poor people, denied rights, water, electricity, are again the victims of violence directed against them, now by their own state.

  3. My main beef with the UPP strategy is whether or not it is sustainable. 2000 police officers are needed for the UPP in Alemão.

    The other good news is that crime in areas neighbouring Alemão has dropped 70%!

    @Mark McVann
    Poeple in Favelas are not denied rights because they live in Favelas, they have those rights denied by the armed criminals that deny the government and it’s agencies to enter their turf. They are not victims of violence directed at them by their own state, but victims of a policy started by Governor Brizola that did not allow the police to enter Favelas thus allowing criminal elements to arm themselves. These people are the victims of harsh and merciless criminals.
    There is nothing terrible about favelas. They certainly have a place in Brazilian Culture as the origins of carnaval. The people that live there are mostly proud brazilians that like to have a sense of community. Maybe you should make a visit to Rocinha with

  4. Esso ja era pra ter acontecido a muito tempo. Fico feliz. Por ter um rio de janeiro limpo. E tomara q matem todos esses bandidos pq eles merecem morrer esso sim

  5. Sven – the people who run these favela tours to Rocinha, pay the trafficantes for permission to operate these tours. My opinions on trafficantes are mixed – but i’m just pointing out the irony of those who claim to be against the drug cartels, are actually supporting them via these tours.

    I would also be very skeptical about these statistics, claiming that ‘crime has dropped 70%’. Just as i would be skeptical about this recent poll claiming that 80 or 90% of residents in Complexo Alemao ‘support the police operation’.

    It’s very easy to manipulate these surveys – for example, if you ask the 60 year old donas de casas with kids… obviously they would all be in favor of a police occupation. However, if you surveyed youths aged between 16 to 30… who are frequent victims of police intimidation and aggression and harassment – you would get a totally different result.

  6. Sven–as to viability, 2000 men are needed now, but if military peace keepers from Haiti stay long enough to give the police time enough to investigate thoroughly, find the drug and arms caches, find the hiding places, find the people who side with the drug dealers, and allow people to get on with normal lives, this should (so runs the theory) create an ambience in the favela that runs counter to crime, rather than being forced to favor it. In addition, the presence of the military also helps rein in the scavengers among the police, who routinely sack places they inspect. All part of the drug legacy.
    When (if?) that happens, you won’t need 2000 police, 200 will do nicely–and that’s 200 more than have been there during the past 25 years.

  7. @Diego

    I can assure you that RocinhaJJ does not pay the traficantes. He’s a local as are the people he works with.

    I agree with you that in the long run, 200 or even less will do nicely, but unless all of Rio has been “pacified” including our neighbouring cities like Duque de Caxias, Nova Iguaçu, São João de Meriti, a small number of police officers won’t suffice. Rocinha and Maré will need at least 2000 troops each. Considering 2000 per 15 favelas or 133 per favela, we’re talking about 100.000 troops needed to passify all favelas.
    The trouble with dugs traffic in Brazil is not the traffic itself, but the enormous violence. Traffic in Europe or the US has much less violence connected to it. It would be good if the drug lords in Rio figure out that less violence means more income.

  8. Sven – I was referring to the ‘jeep tours’. I don’t know who RocinhaJJ is…

    Sven + Michael – No amount of troops or police will solve anything, if the kids have nothing to aspire to and have no other options in life…

  9. Thank god it’s under control for the time being, I know the issue(s) isn’t solved, but it seems to be on the right track.


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