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Folha Witnesses Shootout Between Drug Traffickers and Military Police in Rio Favela

09/11/2015 - 11h23

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ELIANE TRINDADE
FERNANDA MENA
SPECIAL ENVOYS TO RIO

The alley we had just left upon entering Marinalva's house for an interview on public safety seemed another as we left. We were in one of the 16 districts of Complexo da Maré, the largest cluster of favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

Gradually, I realized that what had changed in the landscape of tangled wires and overlapping houses in eternal construction, was not the time or the light, but the excitement of the people walking around.

As we turned a corner, three motorbikes advanced on a group of boys, clearly disturbed, wide-eyed with terror. The drivers were shouting for them to run in our direction. One of them seemed to be hiding a gun under his clothes.

Pow-pow-pow. Rocket shots went off beside us. Those who know the code understands that the sound announces the arrival of the police in the favela. The password means catastrophe is imminent – or is at least looming.

Not knowing what to do or where to go, we see the owner of a restaurant the news crew had had lunch the day before, while we worked on the profile of the Social Entrepreneur Award - emerge on a bicycle.

"This way", she guided us amidst the turmoil of the street.

A stampede ensued. Everyone but us seemed to know what to do. We ran together with the crowd.

Photographer Renato Stockler asked everyone be calm – an impossible feat before the fear of being in the way of a stray bullet, such an everyday tragedy of people there.

On the next corner was the NGO that served as our base. There, the atmosphere was quiet and a group of women were making sandwiches in the kitchen.

Seconds after our arrival, there was a shootout: tat-tat, tat-tat-tat-tat. The high and dry crack was very close. "Everyone to the ground." And everyone lay down where possible.

A young woman burst out laughing. "Nevermind me. I'm laughing because I'm pregnant," she explained. It was a minute that lasted an eternity.

When the ceasefire came, the women went back to their sandwiches and conversation while the children resumed their ball game in the street that had been deserted. It was all too natural.

"Every week is the same. There's no way we can act any differently," said one of them.

No wonder. Without a Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) in place, the 160,000 residents of the Complexo da Maré live in areas dominated by militias and three rival factions (Red Command, Third Command and Friends of Friends). Shootings are therefore commonplace.

The police operation triggered earlier ended with a dead teenager, the seizure of an alligator and 4,000 students out of school.

The police cordon was closing in around Rodrigo Caetano da Silva, known as the Motoboy, one of the heads of the local drug trafficking gang.

But the police only had "arrested" his pet alligator, according to police chief Delmir da Silva Gouvea.

While the alligator was taken to the police station, a 16-year-old boy shot during a clash with the police was being transported to the hospital, where he eventually died. The police say he was found with a pistol.

On Tuesday morning, September 8, public security forces went into Maré for a new operation that resulted in the death of Cristian Andrade, 13, a wounded policeman and an injured resident, shot on her way to her daughter's school.

Translated by CRISTIANE COSTA LIMA

Read the article in the original language

Fabiano Rocha/Extra/Ag. O Globo
The police operation ended with a dead teenager, the seizure of an alligator and 4,000 students out of school
The police operation ended with a dead teenager, the seizure of an alligator and 4,000 students out of school

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