RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian police have seized an arsenal including 69 assault rifles, three machine guns and a number of grenades in the three Rio “favelas,” or shantytowns, occupied two days ago by security forces, authorities said Tuesday.
The Rocinha, Vidigal and Chacara do Ceu slums, located near some of Rio de Janeiro’s wealthiest neighborhoods, were occupied early Sunday by more than 1,500 police officers backed by armored vehicles and helicopters.
Police took control of the three slums in a two-hour operation “without firing a shot,” the Rio de Janeiro city government said.
Since then, one stash after another of arms, ammunition and drugs has been uncovered.
The latest find took place this morning when the Rio state police’s Special Operations Battalion, or Bope, found 16 rifles, nine grenades and 123 ammunition clips in Rocinha.
The evening before, police with the help of informants impounded another four rifles, piles of ammunition and an unspecified amount of cocaine in a storeroom built more than 2 meters (6˝ feet) underground.
The state’s public safety secretary, Jose Mariano Beltrame, visited Vidigal on Tuesday, where he said that police have occupied the three shantytowns to “restore a decent life for citizens in a territory dominated by drug traffickers for the last 40 years.”
The occupation of the three slums was the first step toward the installation of a Pacification Police Unit, or UPP, in the sector, as part of a program that also includes social investment and has already been established in another 18 neighborhoods.
In that regard, Beltrame said the state government intends to establish 40 UPPs in Rio de Janeiro by 2014, when Brazil will host the soccer World Cup.
The occupation of Rocinha and Vidigal was a priority for the authorities because large thoroughfares pass through the two slums that connect the affluent south Rio neighborhoods favored by tourists with Barra da Tijuca, the district booming with real-estate development and where hotels and facilities for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics are under construction.
According to the Public Works Corporation of Rio de Janeiro state, in the occupied shantytowns, inhabited by fewer than 85,000 residents, some 328 million reais ($187 million) will be invested in infrastructure works before the end of 2012. EFE