By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Police units continue to patrol major streets in Copacabana on Tuesday (October 11th) after intense gunfire erupted in the favela community of Pavão-Pavãozinho between drug traffickers and police on Monday (October 10th) afternoon. By the time the shootout ended, three men were dead, three police officers were wounded and eight suspects had been arrested.
Residents of Rio’s Copacabana neighborhood took cover on Monday while shop owners hastily closed their doors and schools sent children home after police officers started to battle it out with a group of men who attacked a UPP (Police Pacifying Unit) in the area.
“When the bullets fly I only leave the door half open,” an owner of a bar on Sá Ferreira [street with access to the favela] was quoted as saying by UOL noticias. “It is better to lose business than to lose your life and to die. This here does not seem like war, it is war,” he added.
Traffic was diverted from streets leading up to the community as police tried to get pedestrians away from the area. Residents of the favela community were either confined at home or waiting for the violence to end so they could enter the community.
“The operation counted with 120 policemen and started because criminals attacked the (police) base of the UPP Pavão-Pavãozinho,” sub-commander of the Shock Batallion Vinicius Carvalho told government news sources. According to military police, six rifles and two pistols were seized, along with ammunition and about eight kilograms of cocaine.
The Pavão-Pavãozinho and Cantagalo UPP was one of the first favela communities to have pacifying units installed in December of 2009. A British expatriate living in Pavão-Pavãozinho, who wished to remain anonymous, explained to The Rio Times how times have changed.
“When I first arrived here in the favela it was the beginning of the pacification and I guess it was a kind of honeymoon period,” she said. “People were pleased in some ways, for example, kids could play on the streets. I never saw drug dealing or even a gun (apart from the police guns) for the first two to three years, never, and then it was rare until about eighteen months ago.”
She added, “Now the gangsters have BBQs in the street, in the open air, in broad daylight with lots of guns. They seem to be openly walking around all over the favela with guns, openly selling drugs from a table.”
The community, which has approximately 10,000 residents, also has one of the most beautiful views of both Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and its hostels are favorite among foreigners and Brazilian visitors.