State strikes notorious Rio Slum, and Brazil under Rousseff: a more egalitarian government
The Police Force found support in the nation’s military in Rio de Janeiro this week forming a collaborative alliance in the war on crime. Focussing on one of the city’s most problematic favelas, Vila Cruzeiro, the operation sought to suppress drug traffic and other criminal activities that have long compromised the safety of the neighbourhood. Under the endorsement of President Lula, Army and the Military Police personnel, Navy armoured vehicles and tanks and Air Force helicopters all cooperated with state and local authorities in the invasion and occupation of Vila Cruziero.
Taking control of the area proved difficult as government forces were met with fierce opposition from heavily armed criminal gangs: intense exchanges of fire and vehicles set ablaze slowed down the advancement. As the belt of the siege tightened, gang members started to flee, taking refuge in a neighbouring slum, Complexo do Alemão, where they joined other gangs set on protecting their territories. On Saturday, this favela was blockaded but the authorities have disclosed they will remain in Vila Cruzeiro, indefinitely.
The success of the operation would not have been possible without an unprecedented support from the population, who for the past months have given information which proved key to the dismantlement of criminal cells.
‘We are turning a very important page in the history of Rio de Janeiro’, said Rio stateGovernor Sérgio Cabral. To many this has certainly been a decisive moment in Brazil’s march towards order and progress. Others, however, hold a different perspective. Former Rio Governor Anthony Garotinho, for instance, believes that this operation, along with the media coverage it received, is nothing more than propaganda; a flexing of muscles from an actually impotent state government. Like the Vila do Cruzeiro invasions of 2002 and 2007, he feels that these measures will only prove effective in the short term, and gangs will be quick to resume their former activities.
In other news, the cabinet of President-elect Dilma Rousseff will be staffed by at least eight women, two of which have been confirmed: Miriam Belchior
and Maria das Graças Foster. Belchior will step in as head of Planning and speculation surrounding Foster suggests she is a strong candidate for President of Petrobras or for head of the Secretariat of Government (the equivalent to France’s Prime Minister). Despite missing the objective of having 30% women in the cabinet, the age of a government with a new face and a more sensitive approach has definitely been signalled. Brazil’s Labour Party maintains a popular appeal:
following Lula, Brazil’s first working-class President, Rousseff will be the first woman President, taking office on January 1st 2011.
Video News; Military forces join the fight