The Brazilian government will spend US$ 1.7 billion to bring running water and other basic services to Rio de Janeiro favelas (slums) to counter drug gangs that control many of the poor areas, announced President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
"If the state doesn't fulfill its role and does not provide (adequate) conditions for the people, drug traffickers and organized crime will," Lula said days after clashes between police and gangsters killed 19 people in one slum.
"So we want to compete with organized crime, and we are sure that we will beat it when we manage to bring benefits to the poorest places," he said at a meeting with auto workers in Sao Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb of São Paulo.
Rio is notorious for its violent slums, which give it one of the highest murder rates in Latin America. Over a million people in the city of 11 million live in shantytowns, or favelas, which often lack basic services.
Rio state security chief José Beltrame said last week slum residents were "at the mercy of a parallel state, where criminals dictate their will." He pledged more police raids to combat drug traffickers.
Human rights groups criticize the military-style raids and call for city services to be brought to the slums, and education and jobs for its residents.
In another speech later in Rio de Janeiro, Lula da Silva called for a tough police stance against drug gangs.
"There are people who think it's only possible to confront crooks with rose petals, throwing talcum powder. We have to confront (gangs) knowing that many times they are better prepared than the police, with more modern guns than the police," Lula said, speaking next to Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral.