Brazilian Forces Invade Rio's Largest Slum

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The government of Brazil sent 3,000 troops into Rocinha, the hillside shanty town overlooking Rio de Janeiro, in an effort to drive out crime and violence in advance of the 2014 World Cup.

They encountered little resistance as they moved in at 4 a.m., The New York Times reported, despite the neighborhood's "notorious" reputation. Indeed, the move by the government, blessed with the dissonant formal name "Shock of Peace," is as much public relations as police work. Troops alone won't correct bad infrastructure and endemic poverty.

The takeover of Rocinha and the nearby Vidigal slum was as much a media event as a military operation. Hundreds of reporters followed soldiers and police through deserted, garbage-strewn streets. The authorities had announced their plans days in advance, giving gang members plenty of notice to flee.

According to TV news channel GloboNews, only one person was detained during the operation.

After years of living in fear of both gang members and the often-violent tactics of police, residents were wary of embracing the new reality.

“Let’s hope for the best, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done,” said Sergio Pimentel, a funeral director sitting outside his business watching the operation unfold.

He pointed to an alley that he said poured raw sewage on to the street whenever it rained.

“We need basic sanitation, health, education,” Mr. Pimentel said. “They have to come in with everything, not just the police.”

The "pacification" operations have been followed by the introduction of community-based police to troubled neighborhoods, as well as improvements to infrastructure, including providing electricity.

There has been real violence, however, and some of the dead have been the journalists trying to cover Brazil's ongoing war with drug gangs. The Guardian leads with a story from last Sunday's raid, this into the favela of Antares, in which a longtime TV cameraman was killed in a crossfire, after police surprised fleeing gang members and started a shootout.

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With Rio gearing up to host the 2014 World Cup final and the 2016 Olympics, authorities have embarked on a so-called pacification scheme, permanently occupying more than a dozen slums and evicting the drug traffickers' private armies. Rocinha, which is home to anywhere between 70,000 and 200,000 people, represents the government's largest and most daunting target to date.

Conquering the giant shantytown – for decades controlled by armed gangs – would represent a massive advance for the pacification scheme.

But Domingos's killing has again highlighted the colossal task facing authorities as they seek to purge the city of war-grade weapons.

"For years politicians … didn't want to recognise the severity of the security situation in Rio," the former head of Rio's military police, Mario Sergio Duarte, told the Observer. "We have started to reclaim public security but there are still weapons of war in the hands of drug traffickers."

For now, CNN reports, Brazilian authorities say Rocinha is "under control." The government will now turn its focus to drug traffickers who fled before troops arrived, if they can find them.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.