A year after the deadliest police operation in the history of Rio de Janeiro, a new raid by law enforcement against drug trafficking left at least 21 dead in a favela on Tuesday, including 11 alleged criminals and a neighbor who was shot. loss.

It is the second police incursion with a high number of deaths so far this year in Vila Cruzeiro, a favela in the north where, according to the police, leaders of the “Comando Vermelho” (red commando) are hiding, a drug gang that has been spreading terror since the late 1970s.

The Rio Military Police (PM) assured that they were shot at by criminals in the upper part of the favela when they were preparing to begin the operation. “The criminal faction that controls the region usually carries out invasions in other areas and we had signs that this group would move through the city,” Uirá Ferreira, commander of the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) of the Rio PM, explained at a press conference. , which acted in conjunction with the Federal Police and the Federal Highway Police (PRF).

In the confrontation, according to the police, 11 criminals died and a neighbor from a neighborhood near Vila Cruzeiro who was hit by a stray bullet. Five other people were injured, according to the latest police balance, which does not rule out new victims, since the shooting occurred in an area of ​​closed vegetation and new bodies could be found.

The agents seized 13 rifles, 12 grenades, four pistols and an undetermined amount of drugs, in addition to 20 motorcycles and 20 cars allegedly belonging to the gang. Authorities reported that at least 19 schools in the area were closed due to the intense shooting, which according to neighbors began at dawn. Bursts of gunfire and explosions could still be heard near the favela at noon, an AFP photographer confirmed.

The Comando Vermelho is responsible for “more than 80% of the armed clashes in Rio,” according to Ivan Blaz, spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro Military Police.

In front of the door of the Getulio Vargas hospital, five minutes from the favela, a dozen neighbors and relatives of the deceased, mostly women, were looking for information on their loved ones on Tuesday. Disconsolate, some screamed and cried.

“These police operations in favelas put the lives of the entire population at risk, prevent the operation of public services and commerce (…) and do not solve any security problem,” Guilherme Pimentel, a consultant with the Ombudsman, told AFP. Public of Rio de Janeiro, which provides legal assistance to the families of the deceased. “Operations like this would never be tolerated in rich neighborhoods of the city, it is necessary that they are not tolerated in the favelas either,” he added.

Human Rights Watch lamented the deaths and demanded an “immediate” and “exhaustive” investigation of what happened. “Rio urgently needs a new public security policy that is not the bullet,” the organization said.

Vila Cruzeiro, one of the favelas that make up the Complexo da Penha, was the scene of another similar operation in February that left eight suspected criminals dead. It was also there that Brazilian journalist Tim Lopes was tortured and executed by traffickers in 2002 while reporting on child abuse in the favela.

Rio celebrated one year this month of the deadliest police operation in its history in Jacarezinho, a favela eight kilometers from Vila Cruzeiro. There, 28 people were killed during a raid against drug trafficking on May 6, 2021.

Last year, 1,356 people died at the hands of police forces, while in all of Brazil the figure was 6,133, according to the Monitor da Violencia project.

Rio, a city with chronic problems of police violence, plans to install some 8,000 cameras on the uniforms of its officers, a move that experts say is showing encouraging results in other Brazilian states. The start of the project, originally scheduled for May, was pushed back to June, according to local press.

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