2 Brazil Army Seizes Control Of Rio Slums
27 March 2014
The Brazilian army has seized control over some of the larger favelas in Rio de Janeiro in a crackdown on criminal gangs ahead of the World Cup.
Federal troops moved into the Favela da Mare on Wednesday and Rio's Secretary of Security, Jose Mariano Beltrame, handed over control of the slum to the military.
It follows a spate of attacks co-ordinated by the largest criminal faction in the city - Comando Vermelho or "Red Command".
Mr Beltrame said: "Mare is a large area which was dominated by drug trafficking.
"We need to push the traffickers out."
He added that the difficulty was not in entering the favelas, but staying there to keep order.
Initially there will be 1,500 soldiers deployed to the area.
Troops armed with mine metal detectors and escorted by the military police carried out extensive searches for hidden arms caches.
Drug traffickers are thought to have concealed weapons and ammunition stashes buried or hidden behind false walls in the sprawling complex.
The northern suburb of Mare is made up of 16 communities and has a population of around 130,000.
Two communities - Nova Holanda and Parque Uniao - have been occupied since Friday by special forces.
The Mare complex is in a strategic location near the international airport and borders all three express routes into the city - Linha Vermelha, Linha Amarela and Avenida Brasil.
Around 8,000 children are unable to attend classes as the 26 municipal schools in the complex remain closed following attacks on police posts last week.
No time period has been set for the occupation.
Jose Eduardo Cardozo, Minister of Justice, said: "This first phase is the occupation in order to pacify the area.
"The presence of the state in the Mare complex has come to stay."
He added: "We have a very well-developed plan for the World Cup so that we are well prepared."
Football fans will descend on Brazil in June, with the World Cup getting under way on June 12 in Sao Paulo.