RIO DE JANEIRO – The Brazilian government deployed on Saturday more than 5,000 army troops and police in shantytowns on the north and west sides of Rio de Janeiro in a new attack on organized crime, which left two people dead and some 20 under arrest.
The operation aims to carry out some 50 arrest warrants in the communities of Jacarepagua, Lins and Sao Joao, where before dawn at least two suspects were killed in acts of “resistance” against the police, according to Rio Security Secretary Roberto Sa.
The deployment involved some 3,000 army troops, around 1,500 police from different corps, more than 600 armed forces vehicles and 70 armored cars.
“We’re staying in the area until our goals are accomplished. It could be 24 hours, all weekend, three days or two weeks. The purpose is to paralyze organized crime,” Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said Saturday on TV Globo.
“Criminals in Rio de Janeiro have to feel they’re no longer as safe as they used to be,” he warned.
By noon, according to Rio’s head of security, 18 of the authorized arrests had been carried out, including the capture of two minors, while several vehicles, three pistols, a grenade and an unspecified quantity of drugs had been seized,
For National Security Secretary Carlos Alberto Santos Cruz, the operation shows that the “state can go where it wants, because no territory in Rio de Janeiro belongs to criminal factions.”
Amnesty International said last Thursday that a year after the Olympic Games, Rio is suffering a “dramatic crisis at all levels,” though the humanitarian organization warned against militarization because it believes that putting more police and troops in the streets will not end the violence.
More than 20,000 army troops were mobilized in Rio during the Olympic Games between August and September last year, and thousands returned to the streets last February to take the place of police on strike for better pay.
Now the decree signed by President Michel Temer paves the way for the army to remain in Rio until December 2018.
“Our message is that we’re not taking a single step backwards because we’re determined to carry on to the end,” the defense minister said last week when he sent in the troops.
Nonetheless, he admitted that “the situation won’t change from one day to the next. We’re going to confront and attack the criminal command, which will probably fight back. Society has to be aware of that.”