- Title: BRAZIL: Police and authorities strive to pacify Rio de Janeiro's slums
- Date: 20th October 2009
- Summary: RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (OCTOBER 19, 2009) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF CLOSE OF A RIFLE BEING HELD BY A POLICE OFFICER
- Embargoed: 4th November 2009 12:00
- Location: Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVAENLIX84PD7L4N8U1T4A1WJ4JK
- Story Text: Rio de Janeiro's police continued operations in the city's slums on Monday (October 19) after a violent weekend during which at least 17 people were killed in violence after drug traffickers shot down a police helicopter and set fire to buses and a school.
Some 4,000 policemen were deployed in six favelas on Monday morning and continued to hunt for the suspected criminals involved in Saturday's attacks.
Slums in the northern part of the city remained tense with residents staying off the streets and schools and businesses only partially open, while police arrested three suspects and seized drugs, ammunition and weapons.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spoke to Rio state Governor Sergio Cabral and offered $100 million reais ($58.3 million dollars) in federal money to help the city's police combat drug gangs.
Lula told reporters that the government will strive to wipe out the violence and drug trafficking from the streets of Rio.
"We know that is still going to take some time before we start to solve the violence problems of the gangs, the organized crime and the drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro or anywhere else in the country. We offered all the help that Rio de Janeiro's governor would need," he said.
Lula also said that Brazil's National Security Force could be called in to boost security.
"The governor said it (using Brazil's National Security Force) wouldn't be necessary. We're replacing the aircraft that was shot down for a bullet-proof one, which will give the police more ability to fight back. And we will try to find, (we will) chase, who performed this violence act that set buses on fire, killed civilians and policemen," he added.
Drug battles between two rival gangs escalated on Saturday and plunged the crime-ridden city into a weekend of violence.
At least 17 people have been killed so far, including three police officers who were on board the helicopter when it went down on a soccer field and burst into flames.
Cabral said Lula showed his support and offered extra federal money for Rio's state so it can struggle the violence.
"I received a phone call from President Lula, (and he showed) his solidarity, his support, and (I received) the confirmation that (federal) money will be offered to (replace) this helicopter, and that for the next six months, a further $ 100 million reais will be offered for the state's public security," Cabral told reporters.
Police said the situation was now under control and that they already killed two suspected drug traffickers and arrested four others when they invaded a slum on Sunday morning, a day after the clashes.
The incident came only two weeks after Rio was awarded the Olympics, raising questions over the city's ability to safely host the 2016 Games.
Some city residents still have doubts if the government will be able to bring peace to the city and they complained that there are social issues that need to be addressed first.
"They (the authorities) can't even take care of the state and want to host an Olympics. First, they have to take care of the children's education. Brazilian people don't even have education and want to have an Olympics," said Rio resident Carlos Henrique.
Others were more optimistic and said the violence would not get in the way of the 2016 Olympic games.
Rio resident Edson Costa, who works for one of the bus companies that had vehicles burned during the weekend attacks, said he believed the authorities will solve the problem ahead of 2016.
"I'm sure that our government will be able to control this turmoil. Everything will be alright until then (the Olympic Games in 2016)," he said.
The beach-side city of 6 million people is one of the world's most violent, with almost daily shoot-outs between police and the heavily armed gangs that control many of its roughly 1,000 slums.
Officials played down the city's security problems during their successful bid for the 2016 Olympics, saying the violence could be contained during major events and pledging to expand state control to more slums.
Rio's police often respond brutally to the drug gangs, sometimes wounding or killing innocent residents. The police tactics have been condemned by human rights groups.
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