By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The situation in one of Rio’s larger favela communities, Cidade de Deus (City of God) remains very tense on Monday with residents reporting hearing gunfire during the early morning hours. Since Saturday residents have been in the middle of gunfire between police and two rivaling drug trafficking groups.
Saturday, a police helicopter crashed into the community, killing all four occupants. First reports were that it had been gunned down by local drug traffickers. Sunday morning the bodies of seven men, said to be local drug traffickers, were found with bullets in the community. The killings, according to local media, are a retaliation for the deaths of the officers.
According to Rio’s military police, however, no bullet holes were found either on the helicopter or the bodies of the four police officers. “There were no gun bullets on the bodies and no bullet holes found on the aircraft, ” the new Rio Security Secretary, Roberto Sá, told reporters on Sunday. The security secretary however was quick to add that it was too early for any conclusive results and that nothing was being ruled out.
According to Rio de Janeiro Military Police spokesman Major Ivan Blaz the region has been the scene of an intense drug war, with local drug traffickers trying to expand their activity into neighboring communities. “What we see is an expansionist policy of drug trafficking in the Cidade de Deus,” said the official on Monday morning in a TV interview to Bom Dia Rio.
Reports indicate that schools and daycare centers in the community were closed on Monday for precaution.
Cidade de Deus, with a population of over 40,000 people, was the second favela in Rio de Janeiro, to receive a UPP (Pacifying Police Unit), in 2009.