Police net drugs, few arrests in Rio slum raids

Rio state Public Safety Director Jose Beltrame stands by drugs

RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazilian police showed off piles of drugs and weapons seized during an aggressive takeover of two of this city’s most dangerous slums, even as the search continued Tuesday in homes and even sewers for their real target: the drug gang leaders themselves.

Police conceded that many of the up to 600 drug gang members believed to have been hiding in Vila Cruzeiro and the neighboring Alemao complex of slums may have escaped. The hunt for those that got away extended Tuesday into Rio’s maze of storm sewers.

The tally for a week of gang attacks and police raids included 124 arrested, 148 detained and 51 dead, authorities said in a statement released Tuesday.

Police proudly displayed the more than 40 tons of marijuana and 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of cocaine seized in the raids, along with hundreds of motorcycles, 15 cars and weapons ranging from handguns to military-grade rifles.

“It is first time in Rio de Janeiro’s history that we have been able to seize this volume of illicit material and weapons in a single police raid,” said Marcos Maia, coordinator of police special forces.

An uncertain number of residents were injured in the raids by stray bullets or fragments of homemade bombs used by the drug gangs. Four officers here hurt.

Police charged into the slums in response to mass robberies and the burning of about 100 vehicles over the past week by drug gangs angry at a program that has brought permanent police posts to 13 slums, with more takeovers to come. The program aims to reduce crime, bring services to shantytown residents and increase safety in preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic games.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva authorized 2,000 troops to remain in Alemao until police can set up permanent posts there next year.

After one day with no cars or buses burned, one car was set on fire late Monday in low-income area outside the city of Rio. Police in Duque de Caxias said the attack may have been in response to the death of a drug trafficker during the Alemao invasion.

Most residents welcomed the police presence, despite the violence. But some filed complaints on Monday and Tuesday about police abuse and theft.  Police leadership promised to investigate the complaints and established an ombudsman to communicate with residents. “Unfortunately we still see some cases of poor conduct and ill-intentioned people within the organizations,” Rodrigo Oliveira, sub-chief of operations of Rio investigative police, told Globo TV.

Officers found to have violated the rights of residents or stolen property will be fired from the force, said Mario Sergio Duarte, head of Rio state police.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply