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Rio's Drug Trafficking War Blocks Off Road and Leaves 11 Thousand Children Out of School

10/02/2014 - 09h10

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MARCO ANTÔNIO MARTINS
DIANA BRITO
FROM RIO

A gun battle between drug gangs at Complexo da Maré, in northern Rio, has blocked off one of the city's most used roads for half an hour: Brazil Avenue.

Drivers had to stop their cars and duck down along the road in order to protect themselves from the gunshots, as they observed the military approach.

Complexo da Maré is composed of 15 favelas and has been occupied by the army since April 5th. This Wednesday, the rivalry between drug gangs, which had begun on September 20th, spiraled out of control. At the military peace base at Complexo da Maré, soldiers speak of a "crisis".

This expression can be extended to other five communities, all with their own Police Peace Base (UPP in the Brazilian acronym).

Since Sunday, September 28th, gunshots have scared and surprised residents of Complexo Alemão, Penha and Mangueira.

NO SCHOOL

Since Tuesday (30), two people have died from gunshot wounds and five have been injured. More than 11 thousand children have not been able to attend school and there are many reports of drug gang members walking around with rifles in tow.

At the Military and Civil police headquarters, police officers do not see these ocurrences as a coordinated action, but they fear there may be a political influence, given the proximity of the presidential election, that is going to be held next Sunday, October 5th, allied with actions by corrupt agents alongside drug gangs.

The Security Agency has reported that the police are at these sites. "It is important to point out that these communities were forgotten by the State for decades, and that the peace process will not back down", the Agency has said on a press note.

Colonel Frederico Caldas, coordinator of the UPPs, has said that "these incidents are isolated and, in all of them, the police acted quickly to avoid any bigger issues".

Despite the coordinator's playing down of the violent incidents, reinforcement on polling day has already been defined in all of the 38 UPPs.

The decision was made based on the frequency of shootings. Residents had to go back to living with gun battles between drug gangs in their disputes for territory.

DECAPITATION

At Conjunto Esperança, one of the 15 favelas that compose Complexo da Maré, residents found the body of a decapitated youth.

He was the first victim of a confrontation between Terceiro Comando (Third Command) and ADA (Amigos dos Amigos, or, Friends of Friends) drug factions.

ADA gang members walked into the community carrying rifles, pistols and radio transmitters.

Gun battles have taken place in 13 out of the 15 favelas that compose the area. Only at Roquete Pinto and Praia de Ramos, which shelter militiamen, there have been no shootings. Everywhere else, the military report constant confrontations.

Residents report that armed youth sell drugs and hide when the military approach. The same practice has been reported across all other communities.

LUCAS VETORAZZO contributed

Translated by CRISTIANE COSTA LIMA

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