Tuesday, March 14, 2006

favela farce

The Brazilian army ended its siege of 10 favelas without having recovered 11 guns that sparked the massive military incursion into several Rio de Janeiro squatter communities, The Independent reports. (See also: Reuters and the Associated Press.)

As I have noted before, the fact that the drug gangs get their weapons from the military has been well-known for years. As I report in my book, a military policeman with decades of experience in the favelas, told me that his squad routinely seizes crates of brand new weapons--assault rifles, grenades, handguns, etc.--that have come straight from the military.

It's also true that 99 percent of favela residents are not involved in the drug trade. Still, they prefer the traffickers to the cops or the army because the drug dealers are communitarian and invest in their hillside neighborhoods. I'm sure that the celebrations as the army pulled out involved more than jubilant drug dealers.

Now that the tense confrontation is over, here's a question I'd like the Brazilian media to answer. With all the guns that have been commandeered by the drug gangs over the years, why did the military suddenly go crazy over 11 guns that were stolen ten days ro so ago? There's got to be more to the story.


Anonymous said...

The farce isn't quite over yet. The military has simply switched tactics. While they have left several (but not all) favelas they were occupying before, they are now present in other favelas, which have little to do with the story. For example, the military were all over Rocinha today complete with road blocks set up at it's entrances. The generals say their new tactic involves 'mobility vs. asphyxiation'.
Most people I spoke with, both outside and inside Rocinha do not feel the military has the training, sensibility, or even legal right to be doing what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I posted to soon... this just in...
The military says they have found their weapons between Rocinha and Vidigal.
Link here:


Anonymous said...


rn said...

Alex: Thanks for the o globo link. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't "Estrada das Canoas, na base do Morro da Rocinha," actually a street in the legal neighborhood of Sao Conrado?

For those whose Portuguese isn't great, the article suggests that the guns were stolen by a rival drug gang in Borel and planted near Rocinha to incriminate the local drug gang there. The article also says that a military helicopter dropped pamphlets on Rocinha explaining the military action, and that locals read the pamphlets and laughed.

The military has still not explained why these eleven guns were so important. It seems a ridiculous exercise, seeing as the drug gangs have many equally sophisticated weapons and no one has moved to disarm or dislodge the traffickers.

To me, the images of the camouflage-wearning soldiers, holding their weapons at alert, next to kids in the favela are reminiscent of the photos of U.S. troops in Iraq. There's the same kind of distance, the same kind of disregard for people's rights.

Anonymous said...

Hello Robert,

My name is Jonas Bendiksen, a norwegian photographer based in New York. I'm currently working on a photographic project involving slums in several countries, working with National Geographic and the Alicia Patterson Foundation. I live in New York, although I'm heading to Bombay in April.

Would love to talk! Do you have somewhere I might email/call?

All the best,


Jonas Bendiksen

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,
Yes, Estrada das Canoas is indeed a legal street in the wealthy São Conrado neighborhood. It is the street one would take in order to get to Pedra Bonita to fly asa-delta.

favelado said...

Hi Robert Rocinhajj here. All is ok in Rocinha now..Still minor problems like always..the police needing to look for corrupts in there own backyard..military and police?

Rocinha is still ok place to live, but my father akmost having heart atacks when hear the guns go off.

favelado said...

Alex what ONG in Rocinha you working? My name is Alex too.