RIO DE JANEIRO – At least eight suspected drug traffickers were arrested on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro’s Cidade de Deus favela, or shantytown, as part of an operation that deployed about 400 Brazilian police officers in the slum following six days of shootouts.
The arrests were made by Rio de Janeiro state police, who were sent to Cidade de Deus (City of God), a shantytown made famous by a 2002 movie of the same name that tells the story of Rio’s drug dealers and their turf wars, to serve nine arrest warrants, police said.
The police operation set off a new round of shootouts, forcing more than 6,000 children to miss school.
Cidade de Deus has been the scene since last Friday of shootouts between drug traffickers and so-called “militiamen,” as well as between drug traffickers and police.
The violence intensified on Saturday, when a police helicopter providing support for law enforcement agents crashed near the shantytown, killing the four officers aboard.
The shootout between police and drug traffickers led to the closing last Saturday of one of Rio de Janeiro’s main highways, an incident that forced drivers to abandon their vehicles and take cover behind road barriers.
The helicopter crash and shootout occurred just over six kilometers (3.7 miles) from Olympic Park, where most Summer Olympics events took place in August.
Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the helicopter to crash near Cidade de Deus, located in the western section of Rio de Janeiro.
A day later, the bodies of seven men, all of whom had criminal records, were found in a wooded area inside the shantytown.
Some residents told EFE that the men died in a shootout with police, but relatives of the victims said officers murdered the men.
Authorities on Wednesday ordered the arrests of nine individuals suspected of running the illegal drug trade in the shantytown in an effort to end the shootouts.
The operation’s top target is Edvarderson Gonçalves Leite, known as “Deco,” who is suspected of being the top boss of the drug gangs operating in Cidade de Deus.
Cidade de Deus, a complex of several poor neighborhoods, is home to about 47,000 people.