War Operation with Almost 3,000 Men Take Rio Favela Back from Drug Traffickers

Brazilian flag up in the hill The Rio police signaled the success of retaking from the drug lords the huge Complexo do Alemão favela neighborhood by raising the flags of Brazil and the state of Rio at the top of the hilly area. 

This action came after eight days of clashes between police and traffickers in Rio de Janeiro and after three days of siege to the Alemão complex. 2,700 men from the civilian and military police as well as soldiers from the Brazilian army took part in the risky and complicated operation.

It took less than two hours for the authorities to take control of the situation after the invasion of the favela started shortly after 7 am this Sunday. Over 30 suspected of involvement in trafficking were arrested and more than 10 tons of drugs were seized together with dozens of weapons.

There was barely any resistance from the heavily armed drug dealers and the bloodbath anticipated by some never happened. The drug traffickers, however, didn’t surrender and were trying to get out of the favela using disguises and trying to pass as residents of the area.

Security forces started a search from house to house in the community. Among those detained was Elizeu Felício de Souza, known as Zeu, one of the men convicted for killing journalist Tim Lopes of Globo TV. In some cases anonymous calls from the residents themselves led the police to hiding places and deposits of weapons and drugs.

The whole police action was backed by armored vehicles and helicopters. Operations to retake the favela started in earnest at 8 am, with “maximum force”, according to the commander of the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), Military Police Lt. Col. Paulo Henrique Moraes.

“The territory will never be given back to the criminals,” said the Police’s deputy chief for operations, Rodrigo Oliveira. It was 9:22 a.m. when the general commander of the Military Police, Mário Sergio Duarte, declared “We won.”

The occupation took place without “major confrontation”, according to Duarte, which made the officer Marcus Vinicius Braga called the situation “disturbingly quiet.” The only casualty was a man taken to the hospital after exchanging fire with security forces. A minor was also injured, but he is not at risk.

Rio state governor, Sergio Cabral, called the police operation and its success a page that Rio was able to turn: “The reconquest of the territory of the Complexo do Alemão by the state is a fundamental and crucial step in public safety policy we have set for Rio de Janeiro,” he said.

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