Brutal Drug War Erupts in Rio

Many residents of some of Rio de Janeiro’s worst slums are fleeing their homes to escape a drug war that has left part of the Brazilian city in ruins, and killed a dozen people.

Smoke rose from the smoldering wreckage of a police helicopter shot down by drug gangs Saturday, while eight buses burned and gunfire filled the air in the slum of Morro dos Macacos.

Police say the fighting broke out early Saturday when one of the city’s three main drug gangs invaded the area in an attempt to expand its territory.

Ten suspected gang members were killed in subsequent gunbattles with police. Several people were injured.

Two police officers riding in the helicopter were killed. Police say the aircraft exploded on a football field after the pilot tried to make an emergency landing with the aircraft in flames. Four people on the helicopter managed to escape the flames.

Hundreds of police officers were sent into the area to end the fighting.

The outbreak of violence comes just weeks after Rio won the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Rio has long been known for its high crime and murder rates, and has more than 1,000 slums or shantytowns, known as favelas.

– Article from VOA News on October 18, 2009.

Body in a trolley: the brutal reality of Rio’s drug

by Ed Harris, London Evening Standard

A woman carrying a child walks unconcerned past a trolley containing the dumped, hooded body of a man, the victim of bloody drugs battles sweeping through Rio de Janeiro’s slums.

Brazil’s president today promised to deal with traffickers after a weekend of chaos in Rio which claimed the lives of more than 20 people.

The latest violence came two weeks after the city won the 2016 Olympics, adding to fears that Brazil would be unable to guarantee the safety of competitors and visitors to both the Games and the 2014 football World Cup.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said: “We’ll do anything it takes and make all necessary sacrifices so we can clean up the mess these people are imposing on Brazil.”

Police said the death toll from weekend clashes between gangs had risen to 21 after more bodies were found in the Morro dos Macacos (Monkey Hill) slum, where gangs also shot down a police helicopter, killing three officers.

Mr da Silva said the government will provide emergency funding to fight the gangs that control many of Rio’s 1,000 slums.

He said: “It will take time to resolve the problems. When you have a conflict of this magnitude, the innocent people always pay the price.”

– Article from London Evening Standard.