PACIFICATION In Brazil, the authorities of Rio de Janeiro launched on Wednesday a major operation to “reconquer” neighborhoods held by drug traffickers

Brazil: Hundreds of police go on the offensive in a Rio de Janeiro neighborhood

Military police in the Jacarezinho favela on Wednesday. — Carl DE SOUZA/AFP

About 1,200 heavily armed police were mobilized by the authorities of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in a major offensive against drug traffickers. Their targets: favelas, start with that of Jacarezinho. This district, in the north of Rio, near the international airport, has not been randomly selected: In May, a police raid left 28 people dead. The’ UN had demanded an “impartial investigation” on charges of summary execution.

Jacarezinho, where approximately 90,000 people live according to community leaders, is considered one of the strongholds of the “Comando Vermelho” (”Red Commando”), one of Brazil’s main gangs.”According to AFP journalists on site, the streets of Jacarezinho were mostly deserted and most curtains shops, while groups of police in fatigues or black uniforms patrolled with assault rifles, in the searing heat.

A “conflict zone” ;

“It’s an intervention in a conflict zone so that we can implement a project of the government of the state of Rio. Security is the first step,” to AFP Major Ivan Blaz, spokesman for the military police. “These are the next steps that will make the difference:  and education, job creation,” he added, stressing that the situation in the favela was “quiet” since the start of the operation, without a shootout between gangs and law enforcement.

The operation was organized within the framework of the “Cidade Integrada” (“Integrated City”), a “big project for the transformation of favelas”, according to the governor of the state of Rio, Claudio Castro, of the Liberal Party, formation of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. Similar operations should take place in the coming months in other districts of this city of 6.7 million inhabitants, of whom nearly a quarter live in favelas, poor districts where Organized crime reigns.

“Military occupation”

But this program, considered like some as a simple effect of announcement at the beginning of an electoral year, already done object of criticism from the opposition. “Dispensaries are closed, vaccination and anti-Covid tests are suspended. Jacarezinho, where takes place this military occupation at; a critical moment in the pandemic,” Renata Souza, regional deputy for the state of Rio for the Socialism and Freedom Party; (PSOL). “This logic of militarily occupying a territory to integrate it is wrong!”It totally violates the rights of the inhabitants!”, she added.

Many security specialists have for years castigated the policy of combating drug trafficking carried out by successive governments, believing that it is based essentially on the violent confrontation of gangs and not on in-depth and more targeted investigations ;es.

Facial recognition

The inhabitants are at the both victims of violence between gangs and the police and between gangs themselves. According to the news site G1, the authorities plan to install facial recognition cameras in Jacarezinho as part of the “Cidade Integrada” program. This program is to replace the Peacekeeping Police Units (UPP), created in 2008 during the term of ex-governor Sergio Cabral, imprisoned there. end of 2016 for corruption.

With local police officers; Permanently present in the favelas, the UPPs initially reduced violence, but the situation deteriorated over time, in particular due to the serious financial crisis that has touched state of Rio after the 2016 Olympic Games. According to the Network of Security Observatories, a collective of universities and NGOs, “Cidade Integrada renews the formula that ;failed with the UPP”, with “a military occupation without dialogue with the inhabitants”.