A third of Rio’s 6 million people live in dwellings in shantytowns, where drug traffickers often wield power through violence, replacing the government. During the first 11 months of 2008, according to official figures, 1,066 people died in police operations in Rio de Janeiro state alone.
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian authorities have begun building “bulletproof” homes in Rio de Janeiro slums where innocent bystanders are among hundreds who die every year in clashes among rival drug gangs, police and vigilantes, the press reported on Friday.
Media outlets said the homes are being constructed with specially blended cement designed to be impervious to bullets.
“They are cement walls of 14 centimeters (5.5 inches),” the president of building firm Ultra Greten, Pedro Moreira Leite, told O Globo newspaper. “Not even a rifle bullet penetrates those walls.”
The latest official figures show that during the first nine months of 2008, 11 civilians were killed and 167 others wounded by stray bullets during gunbattles in Rio’s teeming “favelas,” or shantytowns.
The first bulletproof homes are going up in Manguinhos, a favela on the north side of Rio de Janeiro.
Authorities plan to extend the initiative to other neighborhoods as part of an ambitious plan to upgrade infrastructure in the slums and to erect walls preventing the sprawling hillside shantytowns from spreading into environmentally protected areas.
But the notion of walling-in favelas has sparked controversy in Brazil and abroad.
Last week, Portuguese writer Jose Saramago posted a piece on his Web site likening the proposed barriers to the Berlin Wall or the wall Israel is building in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The idea is to surround the favelas with an armored cement wall 3 meters (10 feet) high” while “organized crime abounds and the vertical and horizontal complicities penetrate the state and society in general,” the Nobel literature laureate said. EFE