At least 25 people were killed in a drug attack in Rio, which is international condemnation

A massive police operation against drug traffickers in a Brazilian favela on Thursday killed 25 people, turning the impoverished neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro into a battlefield and condemned by rights groups.

A police officer was among those killed in the early morning attack on Jacarezinho, on the north side of Rio, where explosions, heavy artillery and helicopters awakened residents.

Police confirmed the toll and identified the other 24 dead as “suspects”. They said all protocols had been followed before officers opened fire, but rights groups and academics were crying.

“Who are the dead? Young black men. That’s why the police talk about ’24 suspects ‘. As a young black favela resident you are automatically suspected by the police. They keep piling up bodies and say,’ They are all criminals.” , says Silvia Ramos, head of the safety observatory at Candido Mendes University.

‘Is this the public safety policy we want? Shooting, murders and massacres at the police? she told AFP.

Large groups of heavily armed police officers were able to pour into the favela while frightened residents proceeded cautiously after the gun was extinguished, AFP journalists said.

Residents reported seeing numerous bodies shot down in an armored police vehicle, a local community leader told AFP, requesting that his name not be published for security reasons.

“Unfortunately, there were many skirmishes in the area. There is nothing to celebrate with this toll, ”a police officer told a press conference, adding that the killed officer was shot in the head.

“This is one of the largest death tolls in a Rio police operation, over 19 in the Complexo do Alemão slum in 2007, except we didn’t lose any of us then,” police chief Ronaldo Oliveira told Reuters.

A 2005 raid on the Baixada Fluminense in Rio’s violent northern suburbs killed 29 people.

International outrage

The massacre sparked criticism from human rights groups, including Amnesty International, who accused the police of the “reprehensible and unjustified” loss of life in a neighborhood mostly populated by black and poor people.

“The number of deaths in this police operation is reprehensible, as is the fact that this massacre took place again in a favela,” said Jurema Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International Brazil, referring to the informally organized neighborhood with few public services.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro have a constitutional obligation to monitor the police and conduct criminal investigations into police abuse. It called for a thorough and independent investigation of the dead.

According to HRW, Rio police killed 453 people and at least four police officers died in the first three months of the year.

The neighborhood where the raid took place is believed to be a base for the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command, the iconic beach town’s largest drug gang.

However, rights activists wondered why recruiting minors – a common practice among Brazilian gangs – would lead to such a deadly operation.

There were also questions about the timing: the operation came despite a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting police from raiding Brazil’s impoverished favelas during the coronavirus pandemic, except in “absolutely exceptional circumstances.”

A resident told AFP that a young man had been murdered in her home, where he sought refuge after being injured.

‘The boy was shot when he got here, and since no resident of this community will kick another out, he stayed. But the police saw blood and came in shouting, ‘Where is he? Where is he? The woman said.

“I only had time to bring my kids out … they killed him in the room.”

‘Predictable outcome’

Rio, a city of 6.7 million inhabitants, is notorious for its violence.

The state of Rio de Janeiro was placed under military intervention in 2018 in an effort to curb violence, including a troubled history of deadly police shootings.

Last year, at least 1,245 people were killed by police in the state, according to ISP, Rio’s public security institute.

That was down from a record 1,814 police murders in 2019, but still higher than, say, the 1,127 people killed by police across the United States last year.

“It is unacceptable that Rio de Janeiro’s public security policy continues to focus on murder as a strategy,” said the Igarape Institute, a think tank.

Robert Muggah, the institute’s co-founder, said the deadly raid was “ the predictable result of years of belligerent rhetoric against crime ” by pro-gun, far-right leaders, including President Jair Bolsonaro and Rio’s recently accused governor, Wilson Witzel. . .

( Jowhar with AFP and REUTERS)

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