Authorities are trying to gain control of the slums from criminal gangs
Efforts to pacify the communities come ahead of two global sporting events
Police arrested a notorious drug trafficker on Wednesday in one of the slums
A special military task force is scheduled to occupy three of Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious slums on Sunday in an effort to gain control of the communities from drug gangs.
The military forces will arrive en masse Sunday, swarming the narrow streets of Rocinha, Vidigal and Chacaro do Ceu communities, Rio de Janeiro’s Security Secretary office said on its website Saturday.
The operation will shut down parts of the city, including several tourist areas.
Officials said the planned operation is part of a program to create peace-making task forces throughout Rio’s poor communities – many of which are ruled by criminal gangs involved with drug trafficking – ahead of two global sporting events.
Rio will play host to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, and has turned its attention to restoring control of the slums, or favelas, that had been in the hands of criminals and gangs.
As in past operations, the so-called Wonderful City may look more like a war zone than a tourist destination as tanks, helicopters and the navy take over the slums where about 130,000 people live. A similar operation a year ago left at least 35 people dead in violence set off after drug gangs lashed out at police.
Rede Record TV, a CNN affiliate, showed images of police as they combed Rocinha on Saturday, confiscating arms and arresting suspected gang members. One suspect was carrying an assault rifle, an R-15, police told Rede Record.
TV Record has also aired images of Rio de Janeiro police celebrating the arrest of the one of the city’s most notorious drug traffickers, Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes. Lopes, or “Nem” as he is commonly known, was found hiding Wednesday in the trunk of a car attempting to avoid a police siege in the outskirts of Rocinha, a slum in the heart of Rio that was under his control for 10 years, police said.
Journalist Luciani Gomes contributed to this report.