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Army tries to win over residents of Rio's favelas

04/07/2014 - 11h46

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MARCO ANTONIO MARTINS
FROM RIO
BRUNA FANTI
SPECIAL FOR FOLHA, FROM RIO

Part of the success or failure of the occupation by the armed forces of the Complexo da Maré, in Rio's north end, is its ability to win over the community. It's what the military began trying to do three hours after its occupation of the 15 favelas of Maré.

Yesterday, there was a moment of tension between the military and residents after a young man was beaten by others and the military was accused of doing nothing.

Cláudio Brum dos Reis, 22, a student and resident of Nova Holanda, went to watch a game in Baixa do Sapateiro. The favelas were ruled by different factions. According to relatives, Reis was attacked by a group of teenagers and thrown in the ditch that divides the communities.

Residents complained that the army did not come forward to help. Confusion ensued. The troops ended up firing shots into the air and used pepper spray. The event is now under investigation.

The occurrence has generated complaints in what was already a climate of distrust. In order to avoid this type of situation and to facilitate its work, the military has sought to talk to residents.

The main "targets" are presidents of neighborhood associations, considered replicators of the military project in the community. Influential people in the favela, like former residents or business owners, will also be sought out. Pamphlets were distributed yesterday.

On Saturday, hours after occupying the favelas, jeeps loudspeakers drove through the streets asking for people's help. The tactic will be repeated this week.

"Let's restore state presence and this link between the population and traffickers, over time, will be broken," said General Ronaldo Escoto, commander of the Pacification Force.

Traffickers and militia who dominated Maré are known for helping the community. Baskets of food essentials, Sunday parties and medical care were offered in exchange for silence.

The army wants to break this cycle.

By attracting residents, the army plans to have patrolling partners. It needs to build lookout points on the flat roofs of houses so that traffickers do not surprise patrols. The armed forces remain in the Complex until July 31, when a review will be made, which could lead to the occupation remaining in place until October elections.

Translated by JILL LANGLOIS

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