News / Americas

Violence Rattles Rio Slums as World Cup Nears

An aerial view of the Mane Garrincha National Stadium (R) and the Convention Center Ulysses Guimaraes in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 20, 2014.
An aerial view of the Mane Garrincha National Stadium (R) and the Convention Center Ulysses Guimaraes in Brasilia, Brazil, Jan. 20, 2014.
Reuters
Daily shootouts are unsettling two of Rio de Janeiro's slums, communities that until recently showcased attempts to pacify the historically violent shantytowns.

Just five months before Rio welcomes visitors for the soccer World Cup, and two years before it hosts the Olympics, the communities of PavIao-PavIaozinho and Cantagalo are bracing for what residents fear is the return of a decades-old turf war involving armed drug gangs, cops and robbers.

The communities, sprawls of bare brick on hills near the prosperous beachside districts of Ipanema and Copacabana, are among the most emblematic of Rio's favelas, as the slums are known. The two favelas were hailed by authorities as triumphs in a campaign to expel crooks using a strong police presence.

Lately, though, violence in both favelas is rekindling.

“We really thought things had gotten better here,” said Alzira Amaral, president of the neighborhood association of PavIao-PavIaozinho, a dense wall of jerry-built homes that climb up a steep outcropping near the Atlantic shoreline.

“Now,” she added, lamenting the return of regular gunfire, “we don't know what to think.”

The pacifications were supposed to pave the way for development of long-neglected areas of Rio, Brazil's second-biggest city and a metropolitan area home to 11 million people. Local authorities, cocksure during a decade-long boom that fizzled just as the pacifications took root, promised to free the favelas from criminals and reverse decades of neglect.

Culture of violence

To date, 36 areas have been “pacified.” Over 9,000 police patrol favelas home to 1.5 million. Initial success in evicting the gangs was applauded but the pacifications have also been criticized for merely displacing crime to other neighborhoods.

And recently, the crime, along with growing unease, is creeping back into pacified zones. Residents who once welcomed the cops are increasingly disappointed by what they see as a lack of crucial public investment that was supposed to follow.

Meanwhile, police face a backlash in occupied favelas because of oppression, violence and other alleged human rights abuses. Corrupt officers in Rocinha, another well-known slum, were arrested last year for the torture and disappearance of a local bricklayer they claimed had ties to drug rings.

Sensing the growing discontent, drug traffickers have ordered gangs to reconquer territory.

“The criminals believe now is the time to strike back,”  said Alba Zaluar, an anthropologist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “With tension and anger in these communities it's easier for gangs to go back and impose themselves through a tried and true culture of violence.”

PavIao-PavIaozinho and Cantagalo, home to more than 10,000 residents between them, were “pacified” in 2009. Residents awoke one morning to the arrival of hundreds of armed police who set up a base in the area and have patrolled it ever since.

For three years, their presence raised hopes that the communities were indeed ripe for transformation - despite the open sewers and intermittent water and power supplies.

Last October, an armed gang confronted police on patrol in VietnIa, a restive cluster of shacks among trees near the PavIao-PavIaozinho hilltop. In a shootout, police killed one suspect  and injured another, the alleged leader of the resurgent drug faction. The leader, known locally as “Pit Bull,” is believed to be recovering there but police don't know for sure.

Sporadic firefights followed the October shootout until earlier this month, when gang members and police began clashing daily. In addition to gunfire, the neighborhoods now ring regularly with blasts from homemade pipe bombs and grenades.

On Friday police killed a suspect they said was a Cantagalo drug kingpin. Gang members, using a routine tactic from the bad old days, the next morning descended upon Ipanema and ordered shops to shut in tribute to their fallen comrade.

Lt. Fabio Azevedo, subcommander of the pacification unit in the two communities, said the flare-up is a function of supply and demand. With few hideouts remaining near tourist haunts, gangs are re-establishing footholds from which to sell drugs.

“They are trying to come back, but we are not going to let them,” he told Reuters.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Venezuela Says Will Push OPEC Until Oil Reaches $100

Saudi Arabia blocked calls from poorer members of the OPEC oil exporter group for production cuts at a meeting in Vienna
More

Mexican Leader Announces Nationwide Crime Crackdown

Announcement comes as 11 mutilated bodies found in violence-racked Guerrero state
More

Soccer Icon Pele Moved to Special Care Unit

Legendary soccer player's personal aide says Pele, who is suffering a urinary tract infection, is 'completely fine,' move was primarily to protect his privacy
More

Venezuela’s Military Introduces Hugo Chavez Course

Fans say it promotes late leader’s humanist values; critics deride it as deification
More

Video Talks on New UN Climate Treaty Set Next Week in Peru

Representatives from 200 countries will discuss emissions reductions, setting stage for broader talks in 2015
More

Colombia's FARC Free Two Soldiers to Restart Talks

Troops taken captive in restive eastern department of Arauca in November 9 military operation freed with help of ICRC
More