By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Tragedy struck early Sunday (November 12th) morning as armed bandits attacked the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) at the Morro da Providência favela in Centro killing one member of Rio’s Military Police and injuring three others.
“There was a confrontation and three police officers and a fourth man were hit and taken to the Souza Aguiar Municipal Hospital in Centro. A sergeant succumbed to his injuries,” read the released statement from the UPP on Sunday.
The victim was later identified by Rio Military Police officials as Third Sergeant Victor Aleixo Oliveira da Costa. According to officials, Da Costa is the 118th member of Rio’s Military Police to be killed this year.
“My sister lost her son. And it is unfortunate to see an officer become another statistic defending the State,” lamented Da Costa’s uncle, Nilton Marcos to Globo news.
“It’s a shame this Rio de Janeiro, where only the bad guys have rights,” added Marcos. “Human rights are only for them.”
The confrontation occurred at around 6AM Sunday morning when armed bandits opened fire on the group of officers. Da Costa was shot in the head, while two other officers were injured by shrapnel. A passerby was also injured during the incident.
At the time of writing, the three surviving victims are hospitalized in stable condition.
Following the incident and ensuing investigation, Rio’s VLT service, which runs adjacent to the Providência favela, was halted throughout the day on Sunday.
Sunday’s tragedy at Morro da Providência marks the latest in a string of violent altercations between authorities and armed bandits within Rio’s favela communities.
Only two days earlier another Military Police officer was killed during a confrontation between authorities and armed hostiles during the military operation at São Gonçalo on Friday, November 10th.
That operation began last Tuesday, November 7th, when some three thousand soldiers from Brazil’s Armed Forces surrounded the São Gonçalo favela while federal and local police scoured the favela for criminals, drugs, and weapons.
In addition, two weeks ago, a gun battle occurred between Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) officers and drug traffickers in the Tabajaras favela community, in Copacabana. Three people were injured in that conflict.
Residents of many of Rio’s favelas, which house more than twenty percent of Rio’s population, have seen violent crimes increase by as much as 120 percent in the last five years.
The Morro da Providência favela community is located behind Central do Brasil (Central Station) and is known as Rio’s oldest favela. It was originally named Morro da Favela (Hill of the Favela) at the turn of the nineteenth century leading many to believe that the word “Favela” originated here.
The UPP operation in Morro da Providência was inaugurated on April 25, 2010.