At least 18 people were killed in a police operation in one of the largest slums in the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro. Of these, 16 were suspected criminals, the police said on Thursday evening.
One of the other two victims was a police officer. The Brazilian news portal “G1” also reported on a killed resident of the “Complexo do Alemão” in northern Rio.
The aim of the action in the complex, which consists of several favelas and has around 70,000 residents, was a gang who are said to have committed vehicle and cargo thefts and robbed banks.
He “would have preferred they not reacted, but unfortunately they preferred to attack the police,” police spokesman Ronaldo Oliveira said at a press conference.
In addition, criminals with barricades tried to hinder the police. The operation began early in the morning, and around 400 police officers – supported by four helicopters and ten armored vehicles – were involved.
Eyewitnesses reported violent exchanges of gunfire on social media. A video by “Voz das Comunidades”, which specializes in news from the favelas, showed residents waving white towels.
In July 2020, the Supreme Court in Brasília suspended police operations in favelas during the corona pandemic. These are only permitted in “absolutely exceptional cases”. The Supreme Court in Brasília ruled that the Rio de Janeiro government must take measures to reduce the lethality of police operations.
Governor Claudio Castro, who took office in May last year, is an ally of Jair Bolsonaro. Brazil’s right-wing president advocates that police officers cannot be prosecuted if they kill people in action. Three of the four deadliest police operations in Rio have occurred in the past 14 months.
In May, 24 people were killed in a police operation in the poor district of Vila Cruzeiro in Rio. More than a year ago, police officers killed at least 28 suspected members of drug gangs in the Jacarezinho favela in the bloodiest operation in Rio’s history.
Powerful gangs fight for control of drug trafficking and protection money deals in the slums. The violence repeatedly spills over to other parts of Rio and hits bystanders.