Pubdate: Tue, 13 Apr 2004
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)

Copyright: 2004 The Edmonton Journal


Tourists Shocked By Shooting; Mayor Wants Federal Police Brought In

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) -- More than 1,000 police stormed into two Rio 
slums Monday, attempting to halt a violent dispute among drug traffickers 
that has left at least 10 people dead.

Automatic weapons fire crackled as police swept through the Rocinha favela, 
or slum, and the nearby Vidigal slum -- both of which overlook the city's 
wealthiest neighbourhoods and trendy beaches.

The violence that erupted Friday has alarmed tourists and vacationers. The 
respected O Globo newspaper said guests at the beachfront Intercontinental 
Hotel were shocked to see red and blue tracer bullets streaking across the 
night sky.

"We're going to tighten the belt around the favela more and more. We're 
going to push them deeper and deeper, point by point, and soon we'll have 
the area totally controlled," said Rio state police Col. Renato Hottz, who 
is in charge of the operation.

Meanwhile, drug gangs fired on a helicopter that was flying over a slum on 
the city's north side, injuring two police officers and forcing an 
emergency landing, the state security office said. Police said the shooting 
was unrelated to the crackdown in Vidigal and Rocinha.

The drug war broke out Friday, when gang members from Vidigal attempted to 
invade Rocinha to wrest control of the narcotics trade, mainly cocaine and 
marijuana. Sporadic shootouts between drug gangs and police have erupted 
since then and the violence in the slums -- which straddle the main roads 
dividing the city's south and west sides -- cut Rio in two.

On Friday, a woman motorist was killed in the crossfire between the two 
gangs. Two other bystanders also were killed, while police said the 
remaining victims were drug traffickers.

Some 40 heavily armed gang members escaped a police dragnet Sunday by 
hiding in the forest that surrounds the Rocinha slum, police said.

Many of Rocinha's 56,000 residents fled the violence. The slum, which is 
usually relatively calm despite its thriving drug trade, is the largest of 
Rio's 600-plus shanties.

Rio's Mayor Cesar Maia criticized state police officials Monday, and called 
for federal intervention to help keep the peace.

"I think the federal government should consider declaring a state of alert 
in Rio de Janeiro, the state security department has shown itself incapable 
of controlling the situation," Maia told reporters.
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