By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL –Traffic on Avenida Brasil, one of Rio’s principal throughways, came to a stop on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 1st due to shootouts in Rio’s Complexo da Maré. Additionally, almost seven thousand students in the surrounding areas saw the cancellation of classes.
The trouble reportedly began on the night of September 30th around 11PM when rival drug factions exchanged gunfire in the Conjunto Esperança area of Complexo da Maré, a group of favelas located in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone).
Militares da Força de Pacificação (the Military Pacification Force) later found the body of an unidentified eighteen-year-old man at the site of the alleged gang firefight. According to Civil Police, the man was killed by gunfire and the Homicide Division is currently investigating the death.
Military forces have occupied the Complexo da Maré since April 5th, to prepare the region for the installation of a Pacifying Police Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora or UPP). Many clashes between police and drug traffickers have taken place since the occupation.
Problems continued on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 1st, with a new round of shootings in the Vila do João area of Complexo da Maré. To combat the firefights, Military troops and tanks then blocked traffic near the Zona Oeste (West Zone) end of Avenida Brasil around 2:40PM.
Reports stated that many motorists attempted to turn back and many others, unaware of the unfolding events, were frightened. O Globo published pictures of some residents and motorists appearing to flee for safety during the incident while others appeared to ducked behind vehicles and guardrails for shelter.
At the time of the incident, drivers traveling to Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) and to the western areas of Baixada Fluminense, were advised to take the Linha Vermelha in place of Avenida Brasil. Traffic cleared by 3:10PM.
In addition to the temporary road closing, O Dia reported that seventeen city schools in the areas of Maré, Penha and Complexo do Alemão were closed on Wednesday due to violence in the regions.
Cancellations in Complexo da Maré included six schools, three nurseries and an Espaço de Desenvolvimento Infantil/EDI (early education center), leaving a total of 6,840 children in Complexo da Maré without classes for the day.