RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of favelas, or low-income communities, was targeted on Thursday in a police operation targeting gang members, in one of the deadliest raids the city has seen in recent memory. At least 18 people were killed in one of them and one has already been brought. More criticism of police violence.
Rio officials said 16 suspected criminals were killed, along with a police officer and a woman, in clashes with police in the Complexo do Alemão. A police spokesman said the raid targeted a criminal gang that stole cars and robbed banks, and attacked nearby neighborhoods.
Videos circulating on social media show intense gunfights between criminals, as well as a police helicopter flying over small brick houses. Police in Rio have also used helicopters to hit targets in densely populated residential areas, and video shows aircraft being fired from within the favelas.
At the site 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.
“This is a massacre from within, what the police are calling an operation,” one woman told the AP on condition of anonymity because she feared retaliation from authorities. “They are not letting us help (the victims),” he said, adding that he saw a man arrested for trying to do so.
A spokesman for Rio’s police force said some of the criminals wore uniforms to impersonate police officers.
“I wish they (suspects) had not reacted and then we could have arrested 15, 14 of them. But unfortunately they chose to shoot at our policemen,” Rio said. said Ronaldo Oliveira, an investigator with the Kay police.
Rio state governor Claudio Castro said on Twitter that he was saddened by the police officer’s death.
“I will continue to fight crime with all my might. We will not back down from our mission to guarantee peace and security to the people of our state,” Castro said.
But many disagree with the government’s strategy to tackle violence and organized crime, an approach that is regularly seen. Deadly actions by the police. In May, more than 20 people were killed in a raid in Rio’s Villa Cruzeiro favela.
Police said in an initial statement that Thursday’s operation was aimed at tracking down and arresting criminal leaders, some of whom are from other states.
“Enough of this genocidal policy, Governor!” Telaria Petron, a federal lawmaker from Rio, said in response to the governor’s tweet. “This failed public safety policy leaves residents and police largely on the ground. It is no longer possible to pile up black bodies and favela residents every day!
Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio, home to approximately 70,000 people. About three-quarters of them are Afro-Brazilian, according to a July 2020 study published by Brazil’s Institute of Social and Economic Analyzes.
Earlier this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court set several conditions for police to conduct raids in Rio’s favelas to reduce police killings and human rights abuses. 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 order came in response to a 2021 raid on the Jacarezinho favela that left 28 people dead. As was the case on Thursday, an officer died during the raid, which some speculated was the latter’s motive. Abuse and summary execution.
Thursday’s operation began before dawn and ended around 4 pm local time, police said. About 400 police officers, including Rio’s tactical police unit, were involved, backed by four helicopters and 10 bulletproof vehicles, according to a police statement.
In a video shared by Voz da Comunidade, a community news outlet focused on Rio’s favelas, residents can be seen waving white cloths from their windows and rooftops and calling for peace.
Fabrício Oliveira, one of the coordinators of the police raid, said authorities feared Friday could be another violent day in the Complexo do Alemão.
“Our experience has told us that after raids like this, the police are attacked in every way,” Oliveira said.
____ AP journalist Mauricio Soares contributed to this report from Sao Paulo.