UPP

A British oil worker has been shot dead by two men in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, a Scottish newspaper reported on Saturday.

Peter Campsie, 48, from Montrose in Scotland, was killed in an attempted carjacking as he was returning home after a business meeting, the Aberdeen-based Press and Journal newspaper reported.

Mr Campsie, who worked as operations manager for Diamond Offshore Drilling International and hails, was shot twice as he attempted to leave his car, according to the newspaper.

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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

Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Police called in reinforcements in favelas (slum areas) in the north of Rio de Janeiro earlier on Wednesday, despite the area having been previously ‘pacified’ as part of the city’s policy of ridding poorer communities of armed criminal gangs and integrating them into the wider city.

Military police have ramped up their presence in the Complexo do Alemão (see photo gallery), a sprawl of favelas in the north of the city, after unrest in the area on Tuesday, which included a protest by residents following the arrest of two young men on Monday.

Police say the pair had arrest warrants issued against them for drugs charges, but around 100 residents took to the streets to protest, defending their innocence. Police used non-lethal force – including tear gas and pepper spray – to disperse crowds, and are now investing whether there were criminal factions behind the protests.

Local media reports that, during the unrest, at least on man took out a gun and fired into the air, and a group of ‘activists’ threatened to set fire to a fuel tanker being used a barricade along with burning tyres and trash cans, further increasing the tension.

Later on Tuesday, the Nova Brasília Police Pacification Unit (UPP) – part of the Complexo do Alemão – came under attack in what appears to be a reprisal, and police battled gunmen into the favela. Investigations are ongoing to establish who the gunmen were.

On Wednesday both military and civil police forces searched vehicles in the favela complex, including those from the local UPP.

Rio’s 38th UPP

Meanwhile, in the west of Rio, police are preparing for the city’s newest UPP in Vila Kennedy – the 38th of the forty UPPs that Rio security secretary José Beltrame announced in 2011, and only the second in the west of the city.

The city has traditionally prioritised areas frequented by tourists and close to new sporting venues, but is now reaching areas located further away from the center.

Police previously announced they would occupy Vila Kennedy, planned for tomorrow (Thursday), due to the high levels of violence seen in the area: 29,372 cases were registered in 2013 alone – up over seven percent on the previous year.

Local media say the region is now calm afte criminals set to be flushed from the area shot at electricity transformers, leaving parts of the district without power. The wider area has since seen a significantly-increased police presence.

Correspondents say that although some UPPs have been successful in bringing greater security to favela communities, there is often still an overwhelming sense of distrust on both sides and armed battles have occurred sporadically.

Some 22 percent of Rio’s population, estimated to be around 7 million people, live in favela communities.

Police, which have faced running battles with armed gangs engaged in both drugs and arms trafficking, have been accused of brutality against local residents – and the notorious case of favela resident Amarildo Dias da Souza, who disappeared from the city’s largest favela, Rocinha, in July 2013, remains fresh in the minds of Rio’s poorer communities.

Investigators say, along with drugs gangs in the area, the main suspects in the bricklayer’s disappearance – and suspected torture and murder – remain police officers from the local UPP.

Extended version of article written for Anadolu Agency

The Cidade Maravilhosa, or “Marvellous City” as Rio is often called, has always been a city of enormous contrasts in terms of its population. Since the days when royalty and slaves rubbed shoulders, to now, when those from the favelas – Rio’s shantytowns – head to the city’s glamorous beaches to seek the upper classes and foreign tourists in overpriced hotels, bars and restaurants to scrape together enough coins to feed their families.

(This article was written for Anadolu Agency – a link to the original post can be found here.)

Complexo do Alemão cable car. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Complexo do Alemão cable car. Photo by Ben Tavener.

In Rio, a street is sometimes all that separates the most expensive real estate in Latin America from slums home to the most deprived communities on the continent.

Since the mid-19th Century, the city’s favelas grew massively, many of them into the steep slopes of Rio’s countless hills.

Brazil’s last census revealed that the country now has 6,329 favelas nationwide, and that they are home to 11.4 million Brazilians – six percent of the population.

To this day, the slums – which are home to a fifth of Rio’s population alone – are seen by many as lawless, no-go areas and havens for traffickers smuggling mainly drugs and arms. Until not so long ago, even the police feared to enter these favelas, so fearsome the armed gangs that ruled the roost.

In 2008, less than a year after being confirmed as host for the 2014 World Cup, the authorities in Rio began “pacifying” these vast swathes of the city – meaning police forces and tactical squads went in, rooted out the gangs and took back these areas, very much by force – with many killed in the process, including many innocent favela residents.

A boy in Rio's Palmeiras favela (Complexo do Alemão). Photo by Ben Tavener.

A boy in Rio’s Palmeiras favela (Complexo do Alemão). Photo by Ben Tavener.

One of the first to undergo this process was the favelas immortalized in the famous Brazilian movie “City of God”, which was based on real events from Rio’s Cidade de Deus favela. It was only the second favela to receive a Police Pacification Unit, known locally by its Portuguese acronym – UPP.

Once pacified, the idea was to reintegrate these areas with the city, introduce “civilization” through newly-installed public services, and break down the long-established dividing lines that kept the favela populations under-developed and with little chance of improvement.

The poorest region of Rio

In 2011, police went into one of the biggest and most complicated areas they had had to pacify to date – a great swathe of favelas in Rio’s North Zone known as the Complexo do Alemão, long considered one of the most violent parts of Rio, which is also blighted by malnutrition, disease and, as a result, high rates of infant mortality.

As the areas were cleared of gangs, a major breakthrough for the area’s outward integration came in the guise of a cable car uniting the hilltops of a string of favelas, following by the inauguration of a series of UPPs.

Daily life in Itareré favela (Complexo do Alemão). Photo by Ben Tavener.

Daily life in Itareré favela (Complexo do Alemão). Photo by Ben Tavener.

Two years after that initial battle between the area’s ruling gangs and police, the cable car is well used (it’s free for residents) and has allowed tourism to come to the area for the first time. Those whose houses were destroyed during its construction have been moved into low-cost housing.

Sailing high above the rooftops, the view from pods allows passengers to look directly into the lives of those living in the favelas below: children flying kites, sellers putting out their goods, old men playing cards in the street, teenagers riding two to a bike, and women hanging out close to dry in the fierce Rio sunshine.

However, leaving the cable car and entering the winding pathways that lead through Itareré, the smell of human waste, stagnant water and weeks of piled-up refuse hits you – wave after wave.

The people are welcoming, but many bear the signs that only basic health and sanitation services are available.

Rio guide Fábio Mendonça highlights parts of the favela that have seen steps taken to bring in public services, security and a sense of urban “normality” into the area for the first time.

Community centres have sprung up to give children activities for when they are not in school, which typically only give classes for three or four hours a day. Children are allowed to draw and paint, as well as being engaged in more dynamic activities – samba, circus tricks, dance and capoeira.

Rubber bullets for some, real ones for others

The favelas are one area that has seen improvements in Brazil – with lives being changed, albeit slowly for some, and new facilities are being brought in.

Views from Itareré favela (Complexo do Alemão). Photo by Ben Tavener.

Views from Itareré favela (Complexo do Alemão). Photo by Ben Tavener.

High streets banks have shown their confidence in the areas now by moving in and opening their doors. Things are tangibly better, Mendonça explains, but there remains much to be done – particularly with schools, and although there is now a police presence in the favelas, residents are still highly suspicious of their new guardians.

And with just cause, it would seem. Last week, an operation by military police in the Maré favela left at least nine people dead.

Human rights activists say tens of thousands of people have been killed by police in Rio, who they say often act with impunity and in cahoots with the criminals. One NGO in the Maré favela – Redes da Maré – questioned why rubber bullets had been used on protesters in upmarket areas of Rio, and real ones in the favelas.

The incident happened at the height of the recent mass protests. Protesters had already taken up the favela residents’ cause after a series of enforced evictions, but soon turned their attention to the case in Maré, accusing police of opening fire on innocent people – an accusation leveled time and time again.

Brazil’s recent protests, although predominantly attended by the country’s “middle class”, have sought to highlight the major social injustices ongoing in Latin America’s biggest country and most successful economy, and the plight of many of the country’s poorest people.

Although years of work, particularly by the leftist Workers’ Party of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his protégé, the incumbent president Dilma Rousseff, have given rise to social programs that have lifted 35-40 million Brazilians out of extreme poverty, the 2011 census showed 16.2 million Brazilians remain officially below the breadline, and recent World Bank data showed 10.8 percent of the country’s population live on less than US$2 a day.

Brazil’s new middle class?

Headlines about Brazil’s “booming middle class” also need a crucial footnote, as this percentile of the population is not the same as might be understood in North America or Western Europe.

The term is used in a broad sense, and its lowest rung, the so-called “Class C”, earns just US$790 a month – enough to pay a modest rent, just about feed the family and perhaps make a payment on a TV or domestic appliance bought in ten installments – purchases which the government tout as signs of the country’s economic emergence.

One major difference between the wider middle class and the “Class C” is that this lower middle class cannot afford to bypass the country’s poor public services and pay for private education and health services.

Despite Brazil’s recent economic success – driven by booming commodity exports and consumer spending – and successive governments’ bold social welfare programs, a cooling-off of the economy has left many people dissatisfied as, while incomes improved, public services did not.

At the heart of the problem, many feel, is the political apparatus – a multitude of ministries (39 at the last count, compared to the fifteen used to run the United States) and a long list of self-serving and corrupt politicians coupled together has meant that not enough of the R$611 billion (US$274 billion) spent on running the country – excluding investments – has actually reached to its final destination, instead going on administration and entitlements.

The result is that Brazil invests far less directly into its public services than any other major economy.

When taking into account the US$25 billion that Brazil is spending on hosting the World Cup and the Olympics, justified by promises of improvements to public services, infrastructure and urban mobility, the reasons why so many people have taken to the streets in the past month becomes all too clear.

Instead of those brought out of poverty in the football-mad country heading to their nearest Confederations Cup stadium to watch top-flight matches, many instead decided to voice their dismay on the streets.

Few benefiting from Brazil’s marquee events

Protesters have voiced their opposition to Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup and Olympics because, despite promises of a long-lasting legacy that would improve millions of lives, only a privileged few are benefiting from the events – including corrupt politicians.

Rio’s hotels, eyeing an opportunity with the string of major events coming to the city, have profited by bumping up their prices significantly, making them the most expensive in the world in 2012.

Property prices have also expanded dramatically, given growing demand and limited space in the most sought-after areas. The latest reports show that the average square meter of real estate in Rio costs US$4,100 – five years ago, it was under US$2,000.

However, the city’s South Zone beach favourites of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon can command far higher prices – indeed the highest in the whole of Latin America. Leblon property prices have shot up to US$11,000 per square meter.

The result is that even people rich enough in the past to live in such prime locations are having to move out and find cheaper places to live.

Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue in Rio. Photo by Ben Tavener.

With the FIFA Confederations Cup and World Youth Day (WYD 2013) set to arrive in Rio, the city has seen pacification operations in favelas at the base of Corcovado Mountain.

Rio’s 33rd Police Pacification Unit (UPP) will establish a permanent presence in the area and should improve security not only for local residents, but for tourists visiting the world-famous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue.

On Monday, 420 special forces and military police, including elite BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion) tactical teams, entered three favelas under Corcovado, site of the thirty-meter-tall Christ statue.

Police say they occupied the Cosme Velho communities of Cerro-Corá, Guararapes and Vila Cândido quickly with no gunfire or arrests. The new UPP, with 190 military police, should be operational within a month.

Rio Governor Sérgio Cabral said the communities would no longer become a refuge for criminals and that the new UPP would “offer security and peace to residents.”

Police had monitored Cosme Velho for information about traffickers and other criminals that had been flushed there from previously-pacified favelas.

Cosme Velho is the location of the Trem do Corcovado (Corcovado Train), which takes tourists to Christ the Redeemer, and military police were at pains to show that the occupation would afford tourists visiting the statue greater safety, particularly during WYD on July 23rd-28th when Catholics from around the world will gather.

“The Pope’s visit and the increased influx of tourists are why we went in. Intelligence showed that criminals were sheltering here. Now they’ve lost the territory,” military police spokesperson Col Frederico Caldas said.

WYD 2013 will be the first major overseas mission for Pope Francis; it is the first time the event has been held in Brazil and only the second time in Latin America. Special police training exercises have been staged to represent a number of scenarios, including the well-trodden tourist route to see the statue.

Read the full article on The Rio Times website.