Thousands of Brazilian soldiers swarm Rio slums in anti-drug war

August 20, 2018

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Thousands of Brazilian soldiers swept into slums in northern Rio de Janeiro on Monday, the army said, targeting drug gangs in violent shootouts that killed at least eight people and trapped terrified local residents in their homes.

The early-morning raids took place in Alemao, Penha and Mare, the army said, some of Rio’s most violent areas that have been targeted in a divisive six-month federal security operation.

At least eight people died in the operation, which the army said took place in an area home to more than half a million people.

“The operations are ongoing and there could be more deaths,” the army said in an email to Reuters.

Many local residents shut themselves inside their homes for fear of being shot if they ventured out, the Globo TV website reported.

The joint operations, which the army said were intended to flush out drug dealers, involved 4,200 soldiers and 70 police officers, as well as armored vehicles and aircraft.

Just over six months ago, President Michel Temer announced emergency measures authorizing the army to take command of police forces in Rio de Janeiro state, where warring drug gangs and militias have brought a sharp rise in violence.

Since the operation began both murders and the number of people killed in police confrontations have risen, casting doubts on a strategy criticized for relying on military tactics, a lack of transparency and unclear goals.

Nearly 64,000 people, a record, were murdered in Brazil in 2017, and the rise in violence has become a key issue ahead of presidential elections in October. Candidates across the political spectrum are trying to play up their crime-fighting credentials and appeal to an electorate fed up with a weak economy and endemic graft.

(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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August 20, 2018 at 09:20PM
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