RIO DE JANEIRO – Nearly 3,500 military personnel, with support from navy ships, are staging a large-scale anti-drug operation across Sao Gonçalo, a city in the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area, the Brazilian armed forces said on Tuesday.
Military personnel used 24 armored vehicles and 18 navy ships to set up a perimeter around the city, the Eastern Military Command (CML) said in a statement.
“What’s different about this operation from the others is that we are including a maritime sector within this perimeter. We have Brazilian navy ships, which are participating in closing it off,” CML spokesman Col. Roberto Itamar said.
Officers from four law enforcement agencies are also participating in the operation, closing off streets inside the city and searching for criminals, arms and drugs.
Flight restrictions were imposed on civilian aircraft operating in the area, but the airports in Sao Gonçalo, located on Guanabara Bay, are open.
Officials identified several neighborhoods in Sao Gonçalo that are among the most active drug trafficking centers in the region.
The armed forces staged operations in recent weeks in several “favelas,” or shantytowns, in the metro area in an effort to end a wave of violence that started after the 2016 Summer Olympics ended in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most famous city.
President Michel Temer’s administration responded to the wave of violence by deploying 10,000 military personnel in and around the city to bolster security, with the operation expected to last until late 2018.
The security operation, according to official figures as of Oct. 31, has cost the government nearly 25 million reais (about $7.7 million).
About 4,000 people, including more than 100 police officers, have been murdered this year in Rio de Janeiro state, whose like-named capital is home to the majority of the region’s population, non-governmental organizations said.