RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian police, with backing from the armed forces, launched on Thursday an anti-crime operation in Greater Rio de Janeiro that led to fresh shootouts and the closure of a major thoroughfare for nearly an hour.
More than 350 Civil, Federal and Highway Police officers sought to carry out 60 arrest warrants and 85 raids in different points of that metropolis as part of “Barba Negra,” an operation against cargo thefts and drug trafficking.
The operation was focused in particular on the Baixada Fluminense, an economically depressed and crime-ridden area made up of several neighborhoods on Rio’s outskirts.
Soldiers also were deployed on some thoroughfares in Rio, which has been mired in a security crisis since the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Military Police said Linha Amarela, a major, 25-kilometer-long (15-mile-long) highway, was closed for around 40 minutes near the Cidade de Deus (City of God) slum on Rio’s west side.
That closure occurred after an apparent attack on a police unit traveling along that route, authorities said on social media.
Linha Amarela had been closed Wednesday after at least three people died in clashes between police and suspected drug traffickers.
Local media said one of those killed was Rodolfo Pereira da Silva “Rodofinho,” a drug lord in that part of the city.
Nearly 500 shootouts occurred in January in Rio de Janeiro state, 41 of them in Cidade de Deus, according to an app that tracks armed clashes.
Rio’s favelas have been beset by a surge in violent crime dating back to the 2016 Olympics.
Some 10,000 soldiers were deployed in mid-2017 to bolster security in Rio and are scheduled to remain there until the end of this year.
Figures provided by the state government’s Public Safety Institute show that 6,731 murders occurred last year in Rio de Janeiro state, or 40 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
That represented the highest level of homicides since 2009, when 7,106 murders were committed.
The public safety crisis in Rio erupted amid different corruption scandals that have landed the last three state governors behind bars and severe economic problems that forced regional authorities to declare a financial state of calamity (bankruptcy) shortly before the inauguration of the 2016 Summer Games.