In an flash operation on Sunday, the Rio do Janeiro police, in Brazil, with the support of the Navy, other security agencies and armored personnel vehicles occupied nine “favelas,” or shantytowns dominated by drug gangs and did so “without a single shot,” officials said.
“The operation was a success. It was done without using firearms, no violence at all, without deaths or injuries,” Rio de Janeiro Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame said.
Participating in the operation were 526 police officers and 105 marines, who were backed up by an armed helicopter and 21 armored military vehicles, Beltrame said, adding that the operation was completed in a little over two hours.
The forces entered the nine favelas in central Rio early in the morning, meeting no resistance from the drug gangs that operate in those neighborhoods.
The criminals who occupied the zones could have been “intimidated” by the heavy presence of security forces or even could have fled in the days before the operation, but Beltrame said that the troops who occupied the slums would now try to locate them and capture them.
Officers will carry out raids on several homes and other sites that, according to anonymous tips received from local residents, are used by the drug gangs to store arms and drugs, Beltrame said.
In the nine neighborhoods live an estimated 20,000 people who “have been definitively liberated” from the drug gangs that had set themselves up in those areas thanks to the “absence of the state,” which now “has returned to stay,” Beltrame said.
Officials plan to deploy special police units in the favelas and set up permanent police posts designed to guarantee the security of the residents. The federal government has promised Rio do Janeiro aid to complete the “law and order recovery” operations with strong investment in infrastructure, including schools, clinics, pharmacies and local forums where neighbors can make public their concerns.
Last November in the Complexo do Alemão, which includes several favelas, considered havens for drug traffickers in the city, were occupied by some 2,600 police and soldiers with air and armored vehicles support after two days of clashes.
The operations are part of an ambitious “fumigate” the ring of favelas surrounding Rio do Janeiro from drug dealers and organized crime in anticipation of major events such as the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.