Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Anger Grows in Rio’s Favelas Over Recent Violence

Residents of a pair of Rio de Janeiro’s impoverished neighborhoods vented their anger after two people were killed amid law enforcement activities.

On Monday, a seventeen-year-old was shot and killed in the Morro do Chapadao favela during a police operation to recover stolen automobiles.  According to the Brazilian military police, the victim was in a stolen car and had a firearm next to him when he was caught in a shootout between officers and criminals.

In response to the shootout, Morro do Chapadao residents took to the street to protests and nine buses were set on fire by a “20-strong group of youths” near Morro do Chapadao.  They also disputed police allegations that the dead teen belonged to street gangs that deal with drug trafficking in the area.

Meanwhile, several schools were closed in and around the Alemao favela today and three cars were reportedly torched yesterday following the death of an elderly woman under mysterious circumstances.

According to MercoPress:
Dalva Arlinda Beserra de Assis, who had been on her way home Sunday with her 10-year-old grandson, was hit by a single bullet - although it is uncertain who fired the shot - and died as she was being transported to a nearby hospital, officials said.
The shootout began at nightfall in the Complexo do Alemao housing project when police officers patrolling the zone were attacked by members of a drug trafficking gang shortly after one of the members of their group, identified as Ramires Roberto da Silva, was arrested.
When the shootout was over, about 50 residents blocked traffic on an avenue bordering the shantytown, or “favela,” to protest the “police violence.” The demonstrators set up barricades and set fire to wastepaper in trash cans, but the protest concluded without any further incidents or arrests.

The actions in Morro do Chapadao and Alemao occurred nearly a week after professional dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira fell to his death allegedly after being chased across several rooftops by the Rio police.  Streets in the tourist area of Copacabana were temporarily closed when police clashed with protesters of the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela shortly after Pereira’s body was discovered on April 22nd.  Confrontations also took place last Thursday following Pereira’s funeral that was attended by several hundred people.

The incidents in Rio have highlighted the “pacification” program that began in 2008 where police and military have taken over several slums affected by violence related to gangs and drug trafficking.  The program has intensified this year and in one operation last month more than 1400 police officers and Brazilian Marines occupied the Mare complex of fifteen favelas.  Yet the strategy has been criticized by some of those who live in the favelas who have accused the police of heavy-handedness and abusing their authority.

The protests have become a source of concern for officials of soccer’s governing body, FIFA, with the start of the soccer World Cup in Brazil coming up in about five weeks.  FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said last week that despite the demonstrations he beloved that the tournament will be “the biggest party on Earth.”

International Olympic Committee Vice President John Coates gave a much harsher assessment and eelier today deemed preparations for the 2016 Rio Games as “the worst I have ever seen.”

Video Source – YouTube user canal publico

Online Sources – The Guardian; The Miami Herald; BBC News; MercoPress; Newser; La Nacion (Chile); Jornal do Brasil; The Latin Americanist; R7

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