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Twelve dead and helicopter downed as Rio de Janeiro drug gangs go to war

Host city of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics shaken by violence as warlords battle for control of the cocaine trade

In pictures: drug war in Rio de Janeiro

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 17 October 2009 21.48 BST
Article history

A police helicopter was shot down by the gangs when it tried to intervene in a battle in Rio. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Two weeks after Rio de Janeiro celebrated winning the 2016 Olympic Games, the Brazilian city was tonight bracing itself for a further night of violence after an intense gun battle erupted in one of the city’s favelas and a police helicopter was shot down, killing two officers.

The violence, intense even by Rio’s standards, began in the Morro dos Macacos, a hillside area in northern Rio. The shanty town, controlled by the Amigos dos Amigos (Friends of Friends) drug faction, one of three heavily-armed cocaine gangs that control many of Rio’s 1,000-odd slums, was reportedly invaded in the early hours of Saturday morning by members of a rival gang, the Red Command. Police say traffickers from the Red Command were attempting to seize control of the local cocaine trade.

Deafening volleys of automatic gunfire were captured on amateur video, filmed from apartment blocks surrounding the slum. One local newspaper declared it a “War in Rio” on its website.

“We were terrified,” Cristina Soares, a 17-year-old resident, told the Rio tabloid newspaper Extra as she fled the area yesterday. “The children were so scared they wanted to leave the house in the middle of all the shooting. Later on things are going to get even worse.”

Mario Vilson, another resident of the Morro dos Macacos, told the news website Terra that he had been woken up by the sound of shooting. “This war has been going on for 20 years and will never end,” he said. “It’s very sad. I just don’t know when we will have peace.”

Hundreds of police officers descended on the area following the invasion. By Saturday night the death toll, including the two dead police officers, stood at 12 according to Rio’s security secretary José Mariano Beltrame. Five other officers had been shot and two slum residents injured, police said.

Favela residents were gathering their belongings and fleeing their homes while at least 10 buses were set on fire across town, causing close to £1m in damage according to one company.

“I saw two bodies lying in the street, surrounded by people,” said Douglas Engle, a photographer who was at the Morro dos Macacos. “Then a third body was brought down from the slum by police, wrapped in a hammock. People were standing around crying.”

In the most high-profile incident, the pilot of a military police helicopter was shot in the leg as he flew over the favela and the helicopter exploded in flames as it crash-landed on a nearby football pitch. Two of those on board were killed. It was the first time a police helicopter had been shot down in Rio.

Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, said it was “inadmissible that Rio be confronted by delinquents in this way” and threw his weight behind police attempts to control the violence.

The head of the military police, Mario Sérgio Duarte, said the drug traffickers would “be the victims of their own choices”. “We have lost two professionals who dedicated themselves to the defence of the population. But we will not be motivated by revenge,” he added.

Oderlei Santos, spokesman for Rio’s military police, said: “Our operations will only cease when these criminals are captured, arrested or are killed in combat.”

Authorities cancelled all police leave and members of Rio’s civil police gathered at the police HQ in central Rio this afternoon. They were expected to occupy a number of favelas around the city. Tonight, military police were seen entering at least one slum controlled by the Red Command in Rio’s southern beach district.

The latest round of violence underlines the challenges local authorities face as they attempt to improve security before the city hosts the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Rio’s government has spent the past year expelling drug gangs and vigilantes from four slums and setting up “pacification” projects by which the slums are permanently occupied by police.

But the majority of the city’s favelas are still controlled by members of three drug factions, which possess an increasingly sophisticated arsenal, including anti-aircraft guns and automatic rifles, often sourced from inventory intended for the Bolivian and Argentinian armies and smuggled into Rio.

Faced with an increasingly well-armed enemy, Rio’s police are also investing heavily in military equipment. They now have a bulletproof helicopter, while local journalists wear bulletproof vests when working in the slums. Each year, Rio’s police kill around 1,000 people “resisting arrest”. Nearly 90 officers have been killed this year.

Santos promised that things would improve before the Olympics. “We have a lot of time before the World Cup and the Olympics, and before then we will certainly arrest a lot of criminals,” he said.

Everything is fine here, move along. You know, no more crime than many American or Western European cities :).

Oh well, thousands died at Tiananmen Square but Beijing Olympics went ahead without any dissenters. (They moved them all out of town or reminded them of the Tianenman Square “Incident”).

Soccer fans around the world get up to this and more every round. These are just high spirited boys up to hijinks in Rio. Bring on the Games :eek:

Hope this is a joke. Soccer never gets to the point Rio is, even in the worst of cases… Even if you only look at the official numbers the exclude a huge number of murders, they’re still averaging about 10 a day…

Tiananmen Square protests happened nearly 20 years before the Beijing Olympics… quite a large gap of time.

Yes…but many things happen daily in China…not reported by official media…human rights are not so popular there…but Olypics went on…
So, off course having 1.500.000 slaves is right…punching pregnant woman in countryside too…evacuating 2 million people agaist their will to build something is right too…selling organs from death executed is right too…military occupation and killing thousand people in Tibet, last year, is not a problem too.
Btw, there is a strategy for military binification of major slumps, which gave good results…in fact the 2 crime gangs faced to conquer space, beacuse there is a lot less room to move now.
It all happens far from beaches and town centre.It is very sad, but slowly but steadily, gets better.

Maybe the Rio selection was made to focus our attention on their issues to assist this country(directly or indirectly) in improving conditions.

In reading the recent posts on this site I would say it has caught some folks attention…

Eroszag, your blind bias is stunning. Find me one other city that is hosting or has hosted an Olympics that has had such insane violence so close to the occasion. It’s unheard of.

Looking good. In Chicago they’re just beating up kids with baseball bats. At least the gangs in Chicago haven’t shot down any helicopters yet.

Local crime…high in Rio in some zone…crime against humanity: in China, there is no competition, but they got the Olympics…USA: world record holder for Exporting war…

USA world record holder for exporting war?
I think Hitler would want to have a word with you about that claim. His record is safe!

Regarding number of countries…no, USA safely first…
regarding number of years doing so…USA win again…regarding total number of victims, Hitler still has the lead. ( well, should be third…Mao and Stalin lead…not easy to give all the death in a world war to a single country,).but USA are not over…so…death toll still running.

I think eroszag needs to brush up on his history, quite significantly. Maybe Rio should be spending money on public education instead of a World Cup and an Olympics.

Mao and Stalin ran up the numbers by mainly killed their own people

Killing people has no nationality…killing their ones, or others.
Fogelson, history is my matter of study…so many chanches to know a couple of things.
Fogelson, I’m from Italy, not Brazil.
Usa has been assaulting countries at least after WWII, and the list is getting quite huge; not knowing this is ok, not admitting is at least questionable.
Regarding HOME crime, I have yet to find a country where you find so many episodes of crazy people killing 30 men ina university, or 15 in a high school, or you have WACO,…all those crazy guys ( ONly one…ahahah) in OKlahoma city…is that not crime?

Eroszag, there is nothing in the Western world (Western Europe and North America) in the last 10-20 years that can compare to what is going on in Rio right now. The same can be said for modernized areas of Asia and Eastern Europe as well. Even bringing the military into Rio can’t keep violence at bay.

How bout the Rodney King riots in LA? How about Juarez Mexico?
It’s a mess down there and that’s all we can really say about it. Time will tell what the army can do but civil rights etc always seem to disappear right before the Olympics. There have been reports of thousands of deaths at the hands of the army before Mexico City in 68.

Rodney king riots in LA are nothing like what is going on in Rio, are you KIDDING?

Fogelson, please spend some hour educating yourself in american and european history before .off course there is nothing like this in the Usa…at the same time there are no crazy guys killing people in university and high school in Brazil, or shooting people fueling cars ( 15 killing …those 2 guys after 2001)…also you have no fear of having someone bombing a federal building, hijacking planes, crushing them on a city…meeting Bin Laden or such…and so many more…yes they are different…sometimes worse, sometimes better.
Regarding europe, we had terrorism assaults in recent years in Italy, Ireland, England, Spain, Germany, France…you won’t find that there.
We should not even mention serial killers…and the likes…or the fact that more than 2.3 million people ar ein prison… ( look at the percentage of black people…)http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm
Also…the army ( PM) is a part of police forces…are not there as an extreme measure…but for sure you know.
There always 3 different kind of police:
Policia civil
Policia Federal
Policia MIlitar.
After those ones, there are special operation groups, like the famous BOPE .
I’,m sure they have finally found a way to solve the problem, an old recipe, the same one I thought about in my studies:
3 stages…

  1. occupying favelas permanetly
  2. increase police salaries
  3. build new houses far from there, with honest people, tha vas t majority, paying them with their work
    It has worked greatly near Salvaddor an Sao Paulo
    I would add, the most important…arresting and giving hard money penalties nd fines to drug users, especially in rich zone and countries.
    Charlie thank you for remembering the massacre before Mexico City.
    Regarding Mexico, for sure are not US crimes the thousands of mexican killed there in the last few years, also by private " John Waynes/ cowboys"…
    Yes it is wikipedia…but is very complete list
    For europe…
    try to find something about ETA, Brigate rosse, Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, IRA and many more…still active all kind of Mafias…
    IN London, more than 30 boys aged 13-17 killed in knife gang attacks this year.
    Anyone is free to have ideas, but first better get some informations.

From the LA Times - 38 dead, 1200 injured, Billions in damage surpasing the 65 Watts riots.