Violence breaks out in pacified Rio slum

AP News
Posted: Sep 06, 2011 11:00 PM
Violence breaks out in pacified Rio slum

Soldiers patrolling a pacified slum in this seaside Brazilian city that will host the 2016 Olympics have come under gunfire from a neighboring area controlled by drug traffickers, authorities said Tuesday.

There was no confirmation from authorities of deaths or injuries, but a witness in the Alemao complex of slums on Rio de Janeiro's north side told The Associated Press that civilians had been shot.

"We're not certain yet exactly what is going on," Marcus Boucas, a spokesman with the pacification force in the slum, told G1, the website of the Globo television network. "The police and soldiers are here to maintain the security of civilians."

It was just last November that police invaded the Alemao complex of slums in the midst of a week of widespread violence across the city, mayhem blamed on drug gangs.

For decades, Alemao had been key territory for Rio's biggest drug gang, the Red Command, and was thought to be impenetrable.

The taking of the slum was the biggest victory yet for authorities in a policing program that uses elite units to push the gangs out of slums, then installs permanent bases and inserts community police to win over the citizens.

Securing the city was one of the promises officials made in their bid to win the 2016 Olympics. The Alemao complex, which hugs a highway leading to the international airport, is a key area in this effort.

Hundreds of soldiers continue to patrol the Alemao complex and are expected to remain until the middle of next year.

In the past week, there have been clashes between soldiers and those living in the slum, who complain of heavy handed policing tactics.