RIO DE JANEIRO – At least 15 people were arrested and large stocks of drugs were seized Monday in a new operation by the Brazilian armed forces against organized crime in Rio de Janeiro, officials said.
Close to 1,000 soldiers, marines and police occupied seven shantytowns on the north side of Rio soon after midnight this Monday to carry out 14 arrest warrants handed down against the drug kingpins in those poor neighborhoods.
One of the shantytowns occupied was Jacarezinho, where seven people have been killed over the past 10 days in clashes between police and drug gangs.
This was the third operation to mobilize a large number of troops since late last July, when the Brazilian government authorized the deployment of 10,000 soldiers and security forces from other states to boost security in Rio and combat a lethal wave of violence in Brazil’s most iconic city.
At the beginning of August, close to 5,000 soldiers and police occupied different shantytowns on the north and west sides of Rio de Janeiro to combat gangs dedicated to hijacking cargoes, while last Aug. 16 another 2,500 troops carried out raids against drug traffickers in different neighborhoods of Niteroi, a city in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area.
Among those captured in the operation this Monday, besides the wanted drug lords, was a soldier who supposedly leaked information about the armed forces’ operations to a drug gang.
The leak came to light early Monday when Brazilian intelligence intercepted a voice message by a member of a criminal gang operating in Jacarezinho telling his fellow traffickers to scatter before the cops arrived.
According to Col. Roberto Itamar, spokesman for the Eastern Military Command, none of the military operations have come up against armed clashes or resistance on the part of the drug traffickers.
While the military surrounded the shantytowns, police broke in looking for the wanted drug kingpins.
The decree signed by Brazilian President Michel Temer authorizing the participation of the armed forces in operations of public safety in Rio, could pave the way for the army to remain in the city until December 2018.
The serious economic crisis in Rio de Janeiro state has contributed to its growing insecurity, with an average of 20 violent deaths daily and 97 policemen killed so far this year.
According to a confidential Security Secretariat document, to which the daily Extra had access, Rio de Janeiro has 843 areas controlled by armed gangs.