RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian soldiers withdrew on Friday from this city’s largest favela after a week-long occupation meant to curb violence blamed on turf battles between rival drug gangs.
Announcing the withdrawal, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said that the armed forces would be ready to return to Rocinha “at any moment” if the situation required it.
“If they (the drug dealers) return, we will return,” he told reporters.
Roughly 1,000 troops, accompanied by 10 armored vehicles, occupied Rocinha last Friday, when days of gun-battles that left four people dead in the favela began to spread to other parts of the city, prompting many schools and businesses to close.
Overlooking Rio’s famous beaches, Rocinha sprawls over a hill that divides the upscale Sao Conrado and Gavea neighborhoods.
President Michel Temer approved the deployment in response to a request from the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Luiz Fernando Pezao.
The soldiers sent to Rocinha were part of the contingent of 10,000 authorized by Temer in July to backstop police in Rio state, which has suffered some 4,000 homicides this year.
During the occupation of Rocinha, troops assisted police in making arrests and seized guns and drugs.
“Classes already resumed and people are moving around freely,” Jungmann said Friday.
While describing the effect of the military presence in Rio state as positive, the defense minister cautioned that the situation constructed by organized crime “over the course of decades, will not be destroyed in weeks.”
Jungmann said that the impetus for the latest eruption of violence in Rocinha originated with Antonio Bonfim dos Santos. a.k.a. “Nem,” who ran a criminal outfit in the favela before his 2011 incarceration in a federal prison in the distant northern state of Rondonia.