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Residents of the Rocinha Slum in Rio Express Distrust of Military Presence

09/25/2017 - 10h30

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ANNA VIRGINIA BALLOUSSIER
SPECIAL ENVOY TO RIO DE JANEIRO

Folha spent a night at the Rocinha slum in Rio de Janeiro, which has witnessed shootings and deaths over the past week.

"Ever since the soldiers arrived, everything has been fine", said Fátima, 28, a beautician. "But after, they will leave, and "Globo" [a television network] will leave, and then what?".

Like Fátima, Célia, 40, a saleswoman, also preferred to only provide her first name "because you never want to stand out in a crowd".

"Most people believe that this was all done halfheartedly because of the Rock in Rio festival. If there weren't a festival, we'd be at a loss. We don't see a 'let's help the poor' attitude. Rather, what we see is a 'let's let them kill each other, and after we'll collect the bodies' attitude."

Célia believes that people's imaginations are worse that the actual threats they face.

"On top of everything, there's something like twenty-five hundred rumors. For example, someone says that a shooting will begin at a particular time and the transformer will get shot and the lights will go out." But the rumor never materialized.

Residents of the Rocinha slum demonstrated resentment when it came to the media, which, in their view, has been prioritizing the impacts that the conflict has had on wealthier neighborhoods.

"To hell with PUC!", Fátima said, complaining of the Pontifical Catholic University - which is located close by, in the Gávea neighborhood - after classes were suspended. The conflict spilled into Sunday (the 24th), when AK-47 rifles were seized, and shootings took place, though no one was injured.

Two friends said that they sided with drug trafficker Nem, since they believed that he had "done a good job" for Rocinha, and that he "even paid for residents' funerals and wouldn't allow minors to do cocaine". On the other hand, his rival "makes a mess".

Anderson da Silva, 26, a driver, made the following comparison: in the community where he lives, a gas canister costs R$ 55 (approximately US$ 18), whereas under Rogerinho's reign over Rocinha, "my 'brothers' pay R$ 93 [US$ 30]", he said. At some point, things blow out of control.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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