Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rio - Worse than a War Zone

Not so long after posting this blog about the emerging under-class in the rapidly growing mega-city slums , i now read about this .

Clashes between police and drug traffickers in a slum in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro have left at least 13 people dead , conflicting reports suggested up to 19 people had died. . Guns and grenades were used in the fighting, with armoured vehicles and helicopters backing police units. More than 30 people had been killed and 80 injured since the police first surrounded the slums in northern Rio known as Complexo do Alemao (the German Complex) on 2 May. The German Complex home for 130,000 people consists of 18 shantytowns with names such as Little Farm, Faith Hill and Happy Ending. Most residents earn less than 404 reais ($207) a month, the state's minimum wage. Wednesday's police operation was the biggest to date, triggering fierce fighting for several hours in the slums . Just next door, a smaller Vila Cruzeiro slum has been under police occupation for six weeks, clashes with drug traffickers occurring almost daily. Seventeen people have been killed and 60 -- mostly innocent bystanders -- wounded since May 1st .
Elsewhere in Rio there are plans to ring two slums in Rio de Janeiro with a 10-foot wall to help the security forces control the Rocinha and Vidigal favelas that overlook the city's richest districts and most fashionable beaches. Global Justice described the proposed barrier as "social apartheid"

A 2002 report concluded that more young people below the age of 18 are killed by guns each year in Rio de Janeiro than in many areas of the world formally at war. The study concluded that there are strong similarities between children involved in drug wars in Rio's slums and child soldiers elsewhere in the world. There are estimated to be between 5-6,000 armed children in Rio.

The report details how the gangs employ teenagers to guard their domains.
Sometimes they are even given ranks and called soldiers. The levels of violence are comparable to a war zone. In the last 14 years, for instance, almost 4,000 under-18-year-olds were killed by firearms in Rio alone. That compares, the report says, with just under 500 children killed in the fighting between Palestinians and Israelis in the same period.

The report only covered Rio de Janeiro but there are similar levels of violence in other Brazilian cities. In particular, areas of Sao Paolo have some of the highest murder rates of the hemisphere .

The cause of this recent outbreak of violence between the "haves" and the "have-nots" was the need for the Brazilian government to re-assert control over Rio , in preparation for the Pan-American games on 13 July. Some 5,500 athletes and around 800,000 tourists are expected to visit the city for the games which will , of course , accrue a lot of revenue for the "haves" . About 7,000 troopers from the National Public Security Force will guard the streets, aided by 18,000 state police .

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