At least 18 killed in a police raid on a Rio favela, sparks anger

At least 18 killed in a police raid on a Rio favela, sparks anger
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July 21, 2022 GMT

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A police operation Thursday against gang members in Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of favelas, or low-income communities, left at least 18 dead in one of the deadliest raids the city has seen recently. and one that is already bringing more criticism to police violence.

Rio authorities said 16 suspected criminals were killed in clashes with police at Complexo do Alemao along with a police officer and a woman. A police spokesman said the raid targeted a criminal group that was robbing cars and banks and invading nearby neighborhoods.

Videos circulating on social media showed intense gunfights between criminals, as well as a police helicopter flying low over the small brick houses. Police in Rio have used helicopters to shoot at targets, including in densely populated residential areas, and a video shows fire being fired from the favela at the plane.

At the scene of the raid, Associated Press reporters saw residents carrying about 10 bodies as bystanders shouted, “We want peace!” Residents said those who tried to help the injured risked arrest.

“It’s a massacre inside, which the police call an operation,” one woman told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from authorities. “They don’t let us help (victims),” she added, saying she saw a man arrested for trying to do so.

A Rio police spokesman said some of the criminals were wearing uniforms to disguise themselves as police officers.

“I would have preferred that they (the suspects) had not reacted and then we would have been able to arrest 15, 14 of them. But unfortunately they chose to shoot our policemen,” said Ronaldo Oliveira, a Rio police investigator.

Rio state governor Claudio Castro said on Twitter that he regretted the police officer’s death.

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“I will continue to fight crime with all my might. We will not back down from the mission of guaranteeing peace and security to the people of our state,” Castro said.

But many disagree with the government’s strategy to combat violence and organized crime, an approach that regularly sees deadly police operations. A raid on Rio’s Vila Cruzeiro favela in May killed more than 20 people.

Thursday’s operation was aimed at locating and arresting the criminal leaders, some from other states, police said in an early statement.

“STOP this genocidal policy, Governor!” Talíria Petrone, federal legislator for Rio, in response to the governor’s tweet. “This failed public safety policy leaves residents and police on the ground, en masse. It is no longer possible to continue peeling black bodies and residents of the favelas every day!

Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio, home to some 70,000 people. Nearly three-quarters of them are Afro-Brazilian, according to a July 2020 study published by the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis.

Earlier this year, the Brazilian Supreme Court established a series of conditions for police to carry out raids in Rio’s favelas as a means of reducing police killings and human rights violations. The court ordered that deadly force be used only in situations where all other means have been exhausted and when necessary to protect life.

The ruling came in response to a raid on the Jacarezinho favela in 2021 that resulted in the deaths of 28 people. As was the case on Thursday, one officer was killed during that raid, which some speculated at the time was the cause of subsequent abuses and summary executions.

Thursday’s operation began before dawn and ended around 4 pm local time, police said. About 400 police officers took part, including Rio’s tactical police unit, backed by four helicopters and 10 armored vehicles, according to the police statement.

In a video shared by Voz da Comunidade, a community media outlet focused on Rio’s favelas, residents can be seen calling for peace and waving white cloth from their windows and roofs.

Fabrício Oliveira, one of the coordinators of the police operation, said that the authorities fear that Friday could be another violent day in the Complexo do Alemao.

“Our experience has told us that after raids like these, the police are attacked from every angle,” Oliveira said.

____ AP journalist Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report from Sao Paulo.

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