The UPPs and the new Rio de Janeiro - Brazilian News

The UPPs and the new Rio de Janeiro

The slums in Rio: a neverending problem for Brazil.

By Paulo Guilherme Pilotti Duarte and Rodrigo Motta

            Since the 60s de city of Rio de Janeiro has been recognized by its natural beauties and, mostly, by the lack of security - and the inventive new ways of robberies that are born in the city such as "arrastões", flash kidnappings and all other kinds of crimes. In despite of the huge amount of cultural choices, great beaches and carnival, the tourism was getting down year by year, due to the security problems.

            Thinking of that, in 2008 the Brazilian government started a new kind of violence combat, the UPPs (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora or in English, Peacemaker Police Unity) which was responsible for performing a cleaning in the most dangerous slums of RJ. The first UPPs were in the small slums, starting with an operation to restore de trust in Rio de Janeiro's police (which had long been discredited among the population because of the corruption and the violence abuse by the PM) and fighting against the militias (paramilitary groups formed mainly by retired and off-duty policemen) and drug gangs who ruled the locals.

            After the small slums were pacified by the BOPE in 2010, the Brazilian government took a major step in fighting the crime in RJ when they occupied Complexo do Alemão (the biggest drug sales point in RJ formed by a cluster of dozen smaller slums that together are home for more than 160.000 people) in a conjunct effort between BOPE and the Brazilian army. This area will be under the UPP command until 2012 (the army is still there today).

            Complexo do Alemão operation was a success and now, in November 2011, BOPE and the army have another challenge to deal with: pacify Rocinha slum (the biggest slum in the world) and recover the control of this region from the hands of the drug dealer "Nem" (Antonio Francisco Bomfim Lopes), who was, since 2005, the "big boss" in Rocinha. He was already arrested when he was trying to escape in a black Toyota (he was trying to escape in the trunk of the car and he offered R$1M to the policemen, which is approximately U$570,000). The capture of the main drug dealer from Rocinha makes things very easy to the police - when compared with other UPPs operations, especially when compared with the Complexo do Alemão operation - the expectation of a bloodbath in Rocinha never confirmed and, even with the promise of fight and resistance made by "Nem", the implementation of UPPs in Rocinha was calmer when compared with the previous operation.

            But even with the calm operation in Rocinha, BOPE and all the policemen involved in the task have to act quickly to capture the other smaller drug dealers who are still in the slum – because the fight for power can start at any time – and to avoid not only the fight for power and a new drug dealer ascension in Rocinha but also the risk of killing bystanders during the operation.

The UPPs problems

              Despite the success of the UPPs in the slums, they still have a lot of problems to deal with. The corruption of some policemen, the resistance of drug dealers who still hide in the pacified slums and the resistance of some portions of the population who do not trust the police become very difficult obstacles to transpose.

            Also, the army, which intends to occupy the slum for just six months while training the freshman policemen on their new activity, will now remain in the slums until 2012 – BOPE and a big portion of the slum population are resistant to that – probably because of the years of authority abuses from the corrupt police forces and the militias who have dominated the local area for years. Complaints about police charging fees from the dwellers - around R$50 mil - and the corruption among policemen in the communities of Coroa, Fallet e Fogueteiros resulted in the removal, on September 11, of the UPP commander, Captain Elton Costa, and his sub commander, the lieutenant Rafael Medeiros. Also, on September 5, the UPP headquarter, located in Cidade de Deus, was attacked with rocks by the locals as a reprimand for the complaints of corruption among the policemen.

            Moreover, the problem of corruption is still there - the cases are decreasing but the problem still persists until today - and the dwellers of Rocinha and Alemão are still reporting some abuses from the police force, and that is a big problem to the government.

The light at the end of tunnel
              "The UPP did not solve all the Rio de Janeiro's problems" said major Eliezer de Oliveira, the coordinator of the UPP program. And he is right. In fact the UPP program is part of a bigger plan from the Brazilian government to pacify the slums in RJ.

            Despite the problems with corruption and force abuses, the UPPs are a success in restoring the peace and order in a region known by the high rates of crimes - specially homicides and drug traffic - and in bringing back the pride to be a dweller in that poor region of RJ.

            The biggest triumph within the UPPs has been the considerably lower criminal rates since the UPPs are occupying the slums. The ISP (Instituto de Segurança Pública, in English, Public Security Institute) has disclosed some new rates for the violence in the communities where the UPPs are installed - there have been six homicides in 2011 until now in comparison with 32 homicides in 2010.

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