BEST FACE FORWARD: Brazilian army combs through slums before World Cup
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/25/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The Complexo da Mare in northern Rio de Janeiro is a shantytown of 15 neighborhoods. Buildings are covered with graffiti and jury-rigged electrical wires hang from nearly every structure. This slum neighborhood now has an unexpected presence: Brazilian army troops now patrol the area, in an attempt to crack down on drug and gang activity before the World Cup soccer championship to be held this July.
Cracking down on drug gangs here, which is home to 130,000 people was deemed a priority as the Complexo da Mare shantytown lies just a few kilometers from Rio's international airport.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The people who live here ignore the armed troops. The beefed-up military presence is seen as an emergency response to escalating violence in the city's notorious favelas.
Cracking down on drug gangs here, which is home to 130,000 people was deemed a priority because the shantytown lies just a few kilometers from Rio's international airport.
"It's not a peaceful operation because we have three different criminal gangs here and they are rivals," Gen. Roberto Escoto says.
The troops will remain until at least July 31, after the World Cup ends, Escoto said. "It's an emergency," Escoto said. "The state police so far don't have enough policeman and enough equipment to operate in all the city."
After neglecting security in the city's poorest neighborhoods for decades, police have now seized control from drug gangs in dozens of slums. While soldiers have provided support during the initial campaign, they have been replaced by police posts in most operations.
Stepped-up measures were deemed necessary for Complexo da Mare. Unlike many of the favelas that cling to the hills near Rio's beaches, the Complexo da Mare is a sprawling, mostly flat shantytown.
Troops have set up checkpoints at the entrances to the favela and patrol the streets on foot and in armored personnel carriers. Soldiers with metal detectors and trained dogs search for hidden caches of arms or drugs. There have been a half dozen gun battles so far.
Violence in the favelas already has raised concerns in a city that will host many of the 600,000 international fans attending the World Cup. Rio also will host the Olympic Games in 2016.
Tourists in the area are wary. "I feel safe here, but I know where not to go," a Belgian businessman says.
Authorities are confident that they have everything under control. "Rio de Janeiro will be prepared for the World Cup," Escoto says, before his aides whisked him off, part of their policy never to let their top commander stay in one place for long in hostile territory.
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