1 person dies as violent protests flare in Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach

Story highlights

Protesters in Copacabana took to the streets after a dancer was found dead, state media reported

Demonstrators told Brazilian media they blame police for the death

Security officials say the dancer's injuries appear consistent with a fall

The clashes come as authorities step up security before the World Cup

Sao Paulo CNN  — 

Protesters burned barricades and police blocked streets as clashes flared in Rio de Janeiro’s beachside neighborhood of Copacabana on Tuesday night. One person was killed.

Residents from the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela took to the streets of Copacabana after a young male dancer was found dead, state-run Agencia Brasil said. The residents told Brazilian media they blame the police for the death, accusing authorities of mistaking the dancer for a criminal.

The injuries the dancer sustained appear to be consistent with a fall, Rio de Janeiro’s State Security Secretariat said in a Twitter post, adding that his death is still being investigated.

The clashes are sure to alarm authorities who are stepping up security ahead of the World Cup, which begins on June 12.

Police, backed by the Army, have stormed dozens of favelas, squeezing out drug gangs, since Rio de Janeiro launched a “pacification” program in 2008. They initially focused their efforts on the slums in the hills above the city’s famous beaches, setting up permanent police posts.

The Pavao-Pavaozinho slum clings to the hills dividing Copacabana from the elite beach of Ipanema.

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Protests started, according to Agencia Brasil, because residents believe police caused the death Douglas Rafael da Silva Pareira. His body was found Tuesday morning.

According to Brazilian media, shots were heard during the standoff with police on Tuesday evening. Globo TV reported that a resident was killed during the shootouts. Hundreds of people participated in the protest, according to Brazilian media.

Shootouts are still relatively common in Rio’s favelas, and clashes with police, even in slums that have already been “pacified,” have increased in recent months.

Earlier this month, Rio requested help from the Brazilian Army. More than 2,000 soldiers and marines moved into the sprawling Complexo da Mare shantytown in the industrial north zone.

The occupation will persist until the end of July, two months after the World Cup ends.

Rio will host a series of games, including the final match, during the Cup. It will also be the destination of choice for many of the 600,000 foreign fans expected to fly into Brazil for the major sporting event.

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