Rio ramps up security after deadly unrest

April 24, 2014 - 6:38:49 am

RIO DE JANEIRO: Just 50 days before Brazil hosts the World Cup, authorities beefed up security yesterday in Rio de Janeiro after a violent clash between residents and police in a slum near the tourist haven of Copacabana beach.

Dozens of military police, including members of a feared special forces battalion, moved into the Pavao-Pavaozinho slum, which is also near the well-heeled Ipanema district.

The security operation comes after protests late on Tuesday by residents over the death of a dancer who residents say was the victim of police brutality. A 27-year-old man was fatally shot in the head during the subsequent protests.

The deadly unrest was another blow to Rio’s public image as Brazil prepares to host the month-long World Cup, which kicks off on June 12, and the Olympic Games in 2016.

Relative calm returned to the area yesterday, a public holiday in Rio, as firefighters and cleaners swept up broken glass and rubble from tire barricades that residents had set ablaze the night before.

Since 2008, city authorities have established dozens of Police Pacification Units (UPPs) in the favelas. Many of the favelas remain under the sway of crime lords and violent drug gangs — and those gangs are fighting back, attacking police as they defend their turf.

General Frederico Caldas, overall UPP coordinator, said residents had instigated the unrest on Tuesday night.

It began “with violent demonstrations by residents, certainly encouraged by the socially excluded, and culminated in violent scenes, ransacking, and the burning of cars and other objects,” Caldas said.