Pubdate: Sat, 27 Nov 2010
Source: New York Times (NY)
Page: A10
Copyright: 2010 The New York Times Company
Author: Myrna Domit


RIO DE JANEIRO -- Police and Brazilian Army soldiers, struggling to 
take control of a second huge slum complex here, were fired on by 
drug gangs on Friday, but by nightfall they had managed to trap the 
traffickers inside, a military spokesman said.

Friday's activity, at the Alemao complex of shantytowns, which is 
home to about 400,000 residents and considered by many to be the most 
violent of the city's slums, is a response to the latest eruption of 
gang violence, which began Sunday, as well as an effort by the 
Brazilian authorities to show that they can secure the city well in 
advance of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

Rio's secretary of public security, Jose Mariano Beltrame, told 
Brazilian news media that the latest violence was "retaliation" by 
gang members against an ambitious government program to control 
violence and "pacify" 13 of the more violent slums by invading, 
rooting out drug traffickers and installing a special community police force.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil sent 800 army soldiers 
to the Alemao complex early Friday after police outposts in the city 
had come under fire from drug gang members. The death toll from the 
violence climbed to 41 on Friday, the police said, with nearly 100 
cars and buses burned on major roadways, their passengers robbed and 
sometimes shot.

The deployment of soldiers indicated the government's concern about 
the latest violence, analysts said, as well as its determination that 
Rio's notorious gangs would not be allowed to prevail.

"It is not humanly possible that 99 percent continue to suffer in the 
hands of criminals," Mr. da Silva said Friday at a news conference 
during a visit to Guiana. "Rio can be sure that the government will 
give all the help necessary."

On Thursday, armored vehicles carrying police officers with assault 
rifles rolled over burning tires during an operation at Vila 
Cruzeiro, another gang-infested slum in the northern part of Rio. On 
Friday, the police declared they had "dominated" Vila Cruzeiro, 
although there were widespread reports that more than 100 gang 
members had escaped from the slum, prompting the deployment of the army troops.

Vila Cruzeiro residents were left in the dark after electrical wires 
were destroyed during Thursday's police activity, and many, fearing 
future violence, refused to go home. Bullet holes scarred walls and 
homes, and Special Police Operations Battalion officers searched cars 
and pedestrians at entrances and exits.

"I have never seen an operation like this one before and I am scared 
and am going to leave this community with my mom and sister," said 
Henrique Goncalves, 18. "I can't continue living like this." A 
hospital near Vila Cruzeiro resembled a war zone clinic mobilized to 
treat victims wounded during the police operation. Among the victims 
was a 2-year-old girl shot in the arm by a stray bullet.

But panic has also affected residents throughout the city, and 132 
schools have shut down, according to the city's secretary of 
education. At the Alemao complex, residents said they feared 
"bloodshed" from an expected invasion by the police and soldiers in 
the coming days, but remained hopeful that living conditions would 
improve as a result.

"This is the largest operation I have seen in Complexo do Alemao," 
said Rosineide Rodrigues de Lima, 39, a telephone operator. "I fear 
for my life and my daughter, who is in there right now, but this is 
the price we have to pay to have a better life in the long term."

Rio's governor, Sergio Cabral, said during a news conference on 
Friday that the police and soldiers were in position to invade but 
were waiting for a "strategic moment to act." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake