With Army Help Rio Takes Over “Heart of the Evil” in Clean-Up Effort for 2016 Olympics

Soldiers enter Alemão favela Rio’s Public Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame described the police raid on the Alemão Complex group of favelas, known as “heart of the evil,” as a success. The criminals lost not only their territory, but also a huge amount of weapons, drugs, vehicles and other possessions, he said. 

“A criminal without home, without a gun, without territory, a criminal without means to trade is much less of a criminal than he was before,” he told a post-operation press conference.

The operation was by far the largest ever carried out in Rio, involving more than 2,500 officers and troops from local and federal police, the Army and the Marine Corps, plus 43 armored vehicles and nine helicopters.

Residents and neighbors supported the operation with over 2.500 phone calls identifying places controlled by the criminal gangs, and applauded and raised white flags as the troops climbed the hills.

According to Beltrame, the government’s war on the drug gangs is far from over, but taking over the Alemão favela represents a huge step towards final victory.

“We did not win the war, but we won the most important and most difficult battle,” he said. “We did not solve all the problems, there is still much to be done, but an important step has been taken.”

Police units started occupying the hills of the Alemão Complex Sunday morning after laying a three-day siege to it. They reached hilltops early afternoon, where they raised both national and municipal flags.

Throughout the day, police searched house after house in the shantytown to hunt down drug dealers. Three suspects were killed and at least 30 others were arrested so far, while many criminals were still at large.

In the operation, the police seized 40 tons of marijuana, 150 kilograms of cocaine, 50 assault rifles, and 50 stolen motorbikes.

The officers also raided some sumptuous houses of the drug lords, which were in a sharp contrast to the surrounding poverty, as the Alemão Complex has one of the worst social indicators in Rio.

The operation was launched after police managed on Thursday to occupy nearby shantytown Vila Cruzeiro. The police assured residents that they will not leave the shantytowns after the operations and plan to remain there to ensure security.

The operation which coordinates state and federal troops and logistics is part of the “clean-up” operation in Rio do Janeiro ahead of the international agenda of the city which includes the World Cup in 2014; the American Cup 2015 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

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