Military enter Rio de Janeiro favela in gang raids

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Rocinha favela has become renowned for tough conditions, crime, and gangs that control much of the neighbourhood.

Military incursions that go beyond surrounding the favela are unusual

Soldiers in armoured vehicles have swept through a Rio de Janeiro favela to back up a police raid after gun fights broke out.

Around 500 soldiers arrived in the Rocinha favela on Tuesday, to support police raids that targeted drug traffickers and gangs in the area.

State security officials announced on Twitter that police had “searched the jungle area of the Rocinha community”.

The raids were searching for weapons, ammunition and explosives, government spokesperson Colonel Roberto Itamar said.

Ordinary people were trapped in their homes during the incursion (file pic)
Image:
Ordinary people were trapped in their homes during the incursion (file pic)

Residents of the favela were trapped in their homes by the fighting, and 3,000 schoolchildren at nine schools were told to stay at home on Tuesday because of the violence.

Rocinha, home to some 10,000 people, lies between some of Rio’s richest neighbourhoods, and it has become a symbol of the violence, crime and governmental neglect in the city’s poorest areas.

The favela is reported to be the site of a criminal power struggle between supporters of Antonio Francisco Bonfim, who has been in prison since 2011, and those of his successor Rogerio Avelino da Silva.

Some residents also feel that the government and city authorities neglect the community, failing to provide support and services to the poor population living there.

Battles between drug traffickers and gangs have caused chaos in the neighbourhood
Image:
Battles between drug traffickers and gangs have caused chaos in the neighbourhood

Last month some 950 troops were sent to Rocinha to crack down on drug traffickers in the neighbourhood.

While it is not uncommon for military to surround neighbourhoods while the police conduct raids, on Tuesday they went further, providing “technical support” to “find hidden material that intelligence agents had detected, Colonel Itamar said.

“This is not a surround operation like the others,” he said.

The security situation in Rio has been deteriorating since the city hosted the 2016 Olympic games, prompting accusations that the government has failed to distribute potential benefits of the event to the city’s poorer communities.

Ordinary people were trapped in their homes during the incursion (file pic)

Battles between drug traffickers and gangs have caused chaos in the neighbourhood

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