The slums of Rio to turn into world's most peaceful place?

According to the authorities, army units left the slums of Rio de Janeiro. They were able to cope with the wave of violence unleashed last October in the center of the upcoming World Cup and the Olympics in 2016. Within one and a half years, Brazilians implemented a "pacification" plan of the criminal world of favelas uncontrolled by the state. However, residents of Rio doubt that drug gangs will give up their power. They are more likely to buy new police officers, which they have already done in the past.

The two largest favelas of Rio - Alemao and Peña - in October of last year launched a war that led to the deaths of 37 people. Then the federal government together with the mayor's office preparing the biggest sporting events - World Cup 2014 and Olympiad 2016 - decided to take measures to eliminate drug gangs in the favelas by creating effective police structures. To do this, the authorities introduced troops to the most dangerous of them. Backed by helicopters and tanks, the troops installed check points there. Next up was the launch of the plan to "pacify" favelas developed in 2008. It provides for the replacement of the army checkpoints with the newly created "peace police" (UPP).

On July 9, the ceremony of power transfer from the army to the police in two major slums was attended by Celso Amorim, Minister of Defense, and the city Governor Sergio Cabral. This fact suggests that the authorities have high hopes on the UPP units. Head of Security Service of Rio, José Mariano Beltrame, said that the peacekeeping police will be different from the "old police" bogged down in corruption and using vicious mechanisms for obtaining illegal proceeds, covering the activities of drug trafficking gangs."
In four years as the Secretary for Security, Beltrame dismissed nearly one thousand corrupt police officers who falsified records. However, his statements were met with skepticism. Both the military and the "new" peace-keeping police were recently caught on corruption. "If society is not perfect, it is not perfect and people who come to serve in the police belong to this society," General Adriano Pereira Junior, who led a military operation in the favelas, explained the situation. However, there are other opinions. Marcelo Edmundo, a defender with the "People's Committee of the victims of the World Cup and Olympics," said that the new police was created in favor of the media to please the ambassadors of FIFA and the NOC, and to create a new script that will distract from the true status of drug-related crime in the favelas. 

The gangs also expressed their skepticism, if not contempt, and the day after the solemn changing of the guard daily attacked police stations of Alemao. Residents then flooded Twitter with panicky statements.  Edmundo believes that if the order is installed, it would happen in southern Rio, for example, in the largest favela Rosin where about 100,000 people reside. In connection with the upcoming global sports forums, this slum, located next door to the most fashionable district of Rio, is of great interest for real estate developers and financial speculation. 

In order to understand how Rocinha will "become appeased," let us look at the current situation there. There is the house of the gang Amigos dos Amigos, (ADA) dominant in Rio de Janeiro. Its territory is guarded by young men with guns who call for reinforcement when they see a stranger. Those accompanied by locals have to meet certain requirements. For example, they cannot take pictures or act provocatively. The favela does not pay for anything. Energy, water, TV on the Internet is stolen from the city via laid cables. Common household crime is a rare phenomenon. All crimes are committed outside Rocinha. However, it is not a fortress, but the neighborhoods where poor people live illegally occupying their makeshift shacks.

They can be easily evicted by a court, accused of at least tax evasion. Or, they can be "appeased" through blackmailing by eviction and changing the unwritten rule that co-operation with the police is punishable by death. This will be done in the "advanced" favelas. If the government can cope with the "Friends," it will be a great victory, because until now they have been an inviolable gang. Only Special Forces unit of Brazilian BOPE, called by some a "killing machine," actually achieved something in Rocinha. But repression alone will not guarantee progress.

"It is very important that the State considers the slums part of society, and not a foreign element, suppressing them through repression and violence, but rather, winning through developing urban communities by building affordable housing, health care and education. Then it really will be an important step in improving the lives of the poor, the workers, "said Marcelo Edmundo to the Netherlands Radio RNL.

Lyuba Lulko


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov