RIO DE JANEIRO – The Brazilian army announced on Saturday that it will remain on duty indefinitely in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest shantytown and since Friday the scene of shootouts between rival gangs, and asked for citizens’ cooperation in establishing order in the area.
“We don’t have a specific time for leaving. We’re doing well with the operation but we’re not talking about leaving just yet,” Gen. Mauro Sinott, coordinator of armed forces operations in Rio, told a press conference.
Rocinha, with a population of some 60,000, has been occupied since Friday afternoon by around 1,000 soldiers, following shootouts that broke out between criminal gangs fighting for control of drug trafficking in that community on Rio’s south side.
The shooting started up again before dawn this Saturday, when an armed group tried to break through the armed forces detachment surrounding the shantytown. Another such attempt was made in the afternoon.
Gen. Sinott asked for the collaboration of Rocinha’s inhabitants: “They’re the people who can help us keep this community in order in the long term.”
In separate operations around the city, the army and police arrested five people Friday night, including drug trafficker Luiz Alberto Santos de Moura, identified as a leader of the gang trying to take over Rocinha.
The authorities also seized more than 10 long-range rifles, piles of ammunition and a number of explosive devices.
After the scenes of panic the night before, Rocinha had calmed down by noon on Saturday, though with tanks patrolling the main streets and authorities searching every vehicle coming and going in the community, EFE observed.
“A certain stability is being maintained,” Rio de Janeiro’s Public Safety Secretary Roberto Sa said, adding that there were reports of suspected criminals hiding in the woods near the “favela,” as a shantytown is called.
Rio de Janeiro has suffered an unusual wave of violence since the celebration of the Olympic Games in 2016, which has led the Michel Temer government to send some 10,000 members of the armed forces to boost security in the region, with the possibility they will remain there until late 2018.
So far this year, according to civil associations, some 4,000 violent deaths have occurred in Rio de Janeiro state, with the victims including more than 100 police and around 630 people killed by so-called stray bullets.