Brazilian military seeking control of Rio slum from drug gangs

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-23 12:57:59|Editor: Xiang Bo
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 1,000 Brazilian troops were deployed on Friday to a favela, or slum, in the southeastern city of Rio de Janeiro, in a bid to wrest control from local drug gangs.

The 950 soldiers backed up by 10 armored vehicles cordoned off Rocinha, Rio's largest slum, located in the southern part of the city, and exchanged gunfire with gang members, alarming local residents.

"Rocinha" was trending on Twitter as Brazilians and foreigners there posted comments while events unfolded.

"The atmosphere is tense here in Rocinha," one user said.

Rio state Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao requested the military intervention following five days of intense shootouts between rival drug gangs.

"We are not going to let up in Rocinha," said Pezao, adding:" We have discovered a significant amount of arms and drugs in a region we have advanced on."

Military police have carried out daily anti-crime operations in the favela since Sunday, when the shootouts between rival groups first broke out.

Favela residents were posting photos of the fighting on social networks, including bullet-ridden walls, spent shells everywhere and the gruesome image of a burnt corpse atop a smoldering pile of rubbish.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, Rocinha was the city's largest favela in 2010, with more than 69,000 inhabitants.

In 2012, the Rio de Janeiro state government created the Pacifying Police Units (UPP) to enforce peace inside favelas. Though they did not eliminate drug trafficking, they succeeded in curbing violence.

This latest flare-up of violence comes less than a month after officials cut back UPP personnel by 30 percent due to budget shortfalls.