by DIARLEI RODRIGUES and DIANE JEANTET
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — On Thursday, a police operation targeting Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela complex or gang members in low-income communities killed at least 18 people in one of the deadliest raids the city has seen in recent times. more criticism of police violence.
Rio officials said 16 suspected criminals, along with a police officer and a woman, were killed in clashes with police in Complexo do Alemao. A police spokesperson said the raid targeted a criminal group that stole cars, robbed banks and invaded nearby neighborhoods.
Videos circulating on social media showed intense clashes between criminals, as well as a low-flying police helicopter over small, brick houses. Rio police used helicopters to shoot targets even in densely populated residential areas, and video showed the plane being fired from the favela.
Associated Press reporters at the raid site said residents were carrying around 10 bodies and that the bystanders said, “We want peace!” He saw her shout. Neighborhood residents said those trying to help the injured risk being arrested.
“There is a massacre inside, for which the police have called an operation,” one woman told the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the authorities. “They don’t let us help[the victims],” she added, adding that she saw a man being arrested for trying to do so.
A spokesperson for the Rio police force said some criminals wore uniforms to masquerade as police officers.
“I would have preferred if the suspects did not react and then we could have arrested 15, 14 of them. But unfortunately they chose to shoot at our cops,” said Rio police inspector Ronaldo Oliveira.
State of Rio Gov. Cláudio Castro said on Twitter that he was saddened by the police officer’s death.
“I will continue to fight crime with all my might. We will not back down from our state’s mission of guaranteeing peace and security to its people,” said Castro.
But many oppose the government’s strategy to combat violence and organized crime, and this strategy is seen on a regular basis. deadly police operations. A raid on Rio’s Vila Cruzeiro favela in May killed more than 20 people.
An early statement by police said Thursday’s operation was aimed at finding and arresting criminal leaders, some from other states.
“Enough of this genocidal policy, governor!” Rio federal lawmaker Talíria Petrone said in response to the governor’s tweet: “This failed public safety policy is putting residents and police on the ground en masse. It is no longer possible to pile up Black corpses and favela residents every day!”
Alemao is a complex of 13 favelas in northern Rio that is home to approximately 70,000 people. According to a July 2020 study published by the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis, nearly three-quarters of them are Afro-Brazilians.
Earlier this year, Brazil’s Supreme Court set a set of conditions for police to raid Rio’s slums to reduce police killings and human rights abuses. The court ruled that lethal force be used only when all other means had been exhausted and when necessary to protect life.
The decision came in response to a 2021 raid on the Jacarezinho favela that resulted in 28 deaths. As on Thursday, an officer died during this raid, and some at that time are speculated to be the reason for the next raid. abuse and extrajudicial executions.
Police said Thursday’s operation began before dawn and was completed around 4 pm local time. About 400 police officers were involved, including Rio’s tactical police unit, supported by four helicopters and 10 bulletproof vehicles, according to a police statement.
In a video shared by Voz da Comunidade, a community news outlet focusing on Rio’s slums, residents are seen calling for peace and waving white cloths from their windows and roofs.
Fabricio Oliveira, one of the coordinators of the police raid, said authorities feared Friday could be another violent day in Complexo do Alemao.
“Our experience tells us that after such raids, the cops are attacked in every way,” Oliveira said. Said.
____ AP journalist Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report from Sao Paulo.
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