RIO DE JANEIRO Ė At least 20 suspected drug traffickers were detained on Friday in a massive operation by Brazilís armed forces and police across four shantytowns in central Rio de Janeiro to capture some of the leading drug kingpins, officials announced.
Close to 1,700 men, from the military to members of the National Guard to civil, military and federal police surrounded in the early hours the favelas (shantytowns) of Sao Carlos, Zinco, Querosene and Mineira, with the support of 10 armored cars, according to a statement by the regional Security Secretariat.
The soldiers and police were greeted with gunshots when they burst into the communities, though no one was wounded.
The operation aimed to carry out several arrest warrants, though how many was not revealed, plus orders to seize arms and ammunition.
Among the wanted are criminals who last month invaded the favela of Rocinha, Rioís largest, and who during the week blasted that community with intense gun battles against the drug-trafficking gang that dominates the neighborhood.
The main targets of the operation, however, were not among the people arrested, although a man identified as a bodyguard of the boss of the gang that tried to invade Rocinha was among those captured.
Most of those detained were caught red-handed in crimes that allowed the seizure of 500 marijuana cigarettes and 5 kilos (11 pounds) of cocaine.
Rio de Janeiro is going through a wave of violence not seen since the 2016 Olympic Games, and which has forced the government of President Michel Temer to send some 10,000 military troops to boost security in the region, with the likelihood that they will stay on duty there through all of 2018.
The security program launched in 2008 by the regional government in an attempt to expel the drug traffickers that dominated several of the cityís shantytowns was successful in its first years and managed to reduce the crime rate, but later the outlaws gradually returned to those neighborhoods.
So far this year, according to civil society associations, in the entire state of Rio some 4,000 people have been killed in acts of violence.
The state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazilís biggest tourist attraction, also faces one of the worst economic crises in its history, so much so that in June of last year, shortly before organizing the 2016 Olympic Games, it declared bankruptcy, which led to a reduction of funds available for paying police to work extra hours.