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VICE News

RIO DE JANEIRO — The prospect of hosting the 2016 Olympic Games was presented to the people of Rio de Janeiro as a chance to showcase the city to the world, generate investment, and improve the lives of its residents — but two recent events illustrate how the combination of construction for the games and a worsening housing crisis has prompted accusations that Olympic preparations are riding roughshod over Rio’s most vulnerable inhabitants.

On Tuesday, police evicted squatters from an abandoned apartment building that onetime Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista had leased from the Flamengo soccer club, hoping to convert it into a swanky hotel for the Olympics before the collapse of his oil and mining empire.

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Anadolu Agency – By Steffen Stubager, Asger Mow & Ben Tavener

CIDADE DE DEUS, RIO DE JANEIRO – Businesses in the Rio de Janeiro favela (shanty town) community of Cidade de Deus aim to reinvigorate the use of a local currency, first brought in three years ago, in a bid to boost trade and prevent money from leaving the area.

In 2011, Cidade de Deus became one of the first communities in Rio to offer locals the option to use their own currency, known as the CDD.

Those using CDDs, instead of the country’s official currency, the Brazilian real, are given discounts and other perks. The project is one of hundreds used around Brazil.

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Anadolu Agency

RIO DE JANEIRO – The upmarket Copacabana neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro remained tense on Friday after more violent clashes broke out on Thursday night between police and protesters angered by the killing of local dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira.

Friday morning saw an increased military police presence in the world-famous tourist hotspot, set in Rio’s beach-lined South Zone, local residents told Anadolu Agency, particularly around the entrance to the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela (shantytown) community, which sits on a hillside overlooking Copacabana.

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Anadolu Agency

RIO DE JANEIRO – Violence, looting and vandalism have rocked part of Rio de Janeiro after police launched an operation on Friday morning to retake commercial buildings which thousands of squatters had moved into just days before.

Fulfilling a court order to clear the premises, around 1,700 military police moved in at dawn to evict at least 5,000 people now living the disused complex of four buildings owned by Brazilian mobile phone company Oi S.A., located in the Engenho Novo district of Rio’s North Zone.

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Federal troops will begin to occupy the complex of 15 favela communities that make up the Complexo da Maré in the north of Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, the chief of the city’s Military Command Center of Operations confirmed in a press conference on Thursday.

The ten-square-kilometre swathe of favelas is nestled near the city’s Galeão International Airport alongside a number of major thoroughfares, including fast transit systems to the centre, where the Maracanã World Cup stadium is located, and to Barra da Tijuca, the city’s main Olympic site.

The Maré area is also thought to be home to around 130,000 inhabitants.

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UPP Mandela. Photo by Ale Silva/Futura Press/Estadão Conteúdo

The Police Pacification Unit (UPP) in the Mandela favela, part of the Manguinhos complex, was torched on Thursday 20 March. Photo by Ale Silva/Futura Press/Estadão Conteúdo.

Brazil is to deploy federal troops to the city of Rio de Janeiro to ensure public security after a number of serious attacks on favela (shantytown) police stations across the city.

Rio state governor Sérgio Cabral and Federal Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo made the announcement on Friday following a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff.

Cabral and Rio’s public security secretary José Beltrame had traveled to the capital, Brasília, on Friday to ask the government for federal support to help quell the violence.

No further details were given in a subsequent press conference, but ahead of the announcement on troops Beltrame said: “We are ready […] to make sure there is no kind of threat to Rio’s citizens. We are out in maximum force on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.”

Military police had already bolstered their presence in a number of favelas (shantytowns) after a series of attacks on communities with Police Pacification Stations, known as UPPs, local media reported on Friday.

Extra officers and backup from tactical divisions were deployed in the favela communities after at least three separate “pacified” favela communities saw attacks on Thursday night.

Manguinhos favela. Photo by Felipe Dana/AP.

Manguinhos favela in Rio’s North Zone now has a far greater police presence due to a slew of attacks. Photo by Felipe Dana/AP.

Thirty-eight communities have so far undergone “pacification”, a city-wide policy by which police bring lawless areas, often controlled by armed gangs involved in drug trafficking, under their control by force, with UPPs left to consolidate gains.

On Thursday attacks were reported in three communities in different parts of the city with parts of the Manguinhos, Lins and Alemão favela complexes consequently waking up to a major police presence on Friday morning.

Manguinhos, in Rio’s North Zone, suffered the worst attack, Globo News reported. The head of one of the region’s UPPs suffered gunshot wounds and another officer was hit in the head by a rock. Both are reportedly stable in hospital and undergoing treatment.

The Mandela UPP, located in the Manguinhos complex visited by Pope Francis in June 2013, was set ablaze and gutted. Two police cars and five support bases were also torched.

The police chief in overall charge of Rio’s UPPs said he believed the attacks were coordinated.

‘On high alert’

The attacks brought some parts of the city to a standstill on Thursday night, with trains stopped in places due to running gun battles between criminals and police.

Local media in Rio de Janeiro reported that the Manguinhos community was without power after the attacks and schools were unable to teach around 4,000 school children on Friday.

All UPP communities have been put on high alert and police have had time-off suspended and are ready to carry out operationwhen deemed necessary, the local authorities said.

After meeting with the cabinet, Beltrame said the city’s security problems were down to Brazil’s “archaic” penal and prison systems, as well as a growing problem with crack use and gun crime within the country, the G1 news website reported.

Rio’s controversial pacification policy has been praised for integrating previously-lawless areas into the wider community and bringing security and public services to the city’s most underprivileged communities.

However, an underlying sense of distrust between residents and police remains. A number of incidents in recent weeks in which favela residents have been shot dead – by police or during police operations with criminals – has brought the topic of pacification back into the spotlight.

Written for Anadolu Agency

Rio police drag woman along road. Photo: reprodução/Globo Extra.

Amateur video shows police dragging Cláudio da Silva Ferreira, 38, along a road in Rio de Janeiro on her way to hospital. Image: Reprodução/Globo Extra

Three military police officers have been arrested after a dying woman was dragged along a road by a police car that was meant to be taking her to hospital in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, the military police service confirmed on Monday.

The woman, 38-year-old Cláudia da Silva Ferreira, had reportedly gone out to buy bread on Sunday morning when she was shot twice by what police described as “stray bullets” in gunfire between officers and drugs traffickers in an operation in the Morro da Congonha favela (slum) community in Madureira, in Rio’s North Zone.

Officers then put the mother-of-four into the trunk of their police car to drive her to hospital and at some point during the journey to hospital, as amateur mobile phone footage testified, the trunk opened and she was dragged along the road for approximately 250 metres.

Shocked onlookers said the police were only alerted to what was happening by pedestrians and drivers when the car pulled up at traffic signals.

Health officials say Ferreira was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.

A police spokesperson said Ferreira should have been in the back seat alongside an officer and that the case was already being investigated internally by the military police:

“This type of conduct did not fit with the principal values of the corporation – which are the preservation of life and human dignity,” the spokesperson told reporters.

The investigation will also seek to establish whether Ferreira had been shot by police or traffickers in the anti-trafficking operation.

But local people took to the streets on Monday to protest the woman’s death, bringing a major local road to a halt as protesters burned piles of trash and accused the military police of killing favela residents indiscriminately.

‘Treated like an animal’

Ferreira, who took care of four relatives as well as raising four of her own children, was buried on Monday afternoon at a local cemetery.

“They [the police] treated her like an animal. Not even the worst trafficker in the world would have been treated like that,” Ferreira’s husband, 41-year-old security guard Alexandre da Silva was quoted by Brazilian daily Folha de S.Paulo as saying at the funeral service.

Silva said he believed his wife would have survived the gunshot wounds if she had not subsequently been dragged behind the police car.

Tensions have been running higher than usual in a number of favelas in Rio after new communities were ‘pacified’ – forcibly brought under police control – and previously-pacified areas reinforced by tactical squadrons after an increase in the number of attacks against police, including the notorious North Zone swathe of favelas known as the Complexo do Alemão.

Indeed an officer at one of the city’s UPPs – so-called “police pacification units” installed inside newly-pacified favelas – was killed last week after criminals attacked the station in Vila Cruzeiro, part of the Complexo da Penha group of favela communities.

Adding to the tension is an ongoing investigation into the alleged torture and murder of Rio bricklayer Amarildo Dias da Souza who disappeared in 2013. Local UPP police officers are the main suspects and proceedings against them have begun.

In 2008 Rio policymakers set out plans to ‘pacify’ forty favela communities and install UPPs. Last week saw the installation of Rio’s 38th UPP, in Vila Kennedy in the west of the city.

The policy of pacification has been largely praised by the wider community, but there remains significant distrust between favela community residents – which make up around 22 percent of Rio’s population – and military police.

Written for Anadolu Agency

The Complexo do Alemão is a string of favelas in Rio’s Zona Norte. It was once considered one of the most dangerous places in the city.

However, a mixture of police “pacification” operations and more investment from the outside – including the installing of a cable car, the Teleférico, that unites many of the Complexo’s favelas – is gradually bringing change to the area.

Tourism is slowly trickling into the area, thanks to the cable car and the greater (although not guaranteed) security now present in the area.