RIO DE JANEIRO – Security forces members on Sunday raised the flags of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro state over an unfinished cable-car station to show that they had taken control of the Complexo do Alemao “favelas,” or shantytowns, that had been under the control of drug traffickers.
The flags were raised by the police officers who pushed the drug gangs out of the sprawling shantytowns in the northern section of Rio de Janeiro with the help of army troops.
“It is a symbolic action, a first step,” Rodrigo Oliveira, one of the police chiefs who participated in the operation, told reporters.
About 2,600 police and soldiers took control of Complexo do Alemao without encountering the armed resistance that had been expected.
“We won. We brought liberty to the people of Alemao,” Rio de Janeiro state police chief Col. Mario Sergio Duarte told reporters, adding that the drug traffickers preferred to flee rather than take on the security forces.
A man armed with a rifle was wounded in a shootout with the security forces shortly before noon and died while being transported to the hospital, officials said.
Police conducted house-to-house searches for drug traffickers after securing the area, making numerous arrests and seizing arms and drugs.
Officers found a mansion constructed by suspected drug trafficker Luciano Martiniano da Silva amid the squalor of the shantytowns, officials said.
The operation to lay siege to Complexo do Alemao, a group of 15 favelas with some 400,000 residents, began last Thursday when dozens of Comando Vermelho (Red Command) gang members armed with rifles took refuge in the slum.
The gang members arrived in the shantytown complex after fleeing from neighboring Vila Cruzeiro, from which they were expelled by police in armored cars.
The gang is blamed by officials for the wave of violence that began last week with attacks on police posts and the burning of vehicles in different parts of the city and its metropolitan area.
The police operation targeting the gang left at least 35 people dead last week.