A police operation in a favela complex in Rio de Janeiro that lasted 12 hours left 18 people dead on Thursday afternoon, including a woman who was driving in the area. It is the third deadliest operation in the Brazilian city in just over a year.
Around 400 police officers entered the Complexo do Alemão to dismantle a criminal organization specializing in car and cargo theft as well as bank robberies. Gang members faced off with the security forces in an exchange of gunfire that lasted about 12 hours while terrified residents took shelter in their precarious homes. The police reported that gang members set barricades on fire and covered the streets with oil to prevent officers from advancing.
The boyfriend of the deceased woman told the newspaper Globo: “She was at my house, in Penha [a neighborhood in Rio], and we came here [to the Complexo do Alemão] to have a meal with my aunt. At that moment, the shooting broke out. We stopped at a traffic light and soon my car was shot at. They hit her in the chest.”
Brazilian police operations are among the deadliest in the world: last year, more than 6,000 people died in raids. The 400 or so officers who participated in the Complexo do Alemão complex had support from four helicopters and 10 armored vehicles.
The Public Defender’s Office has expressed concern about the high number of victims. A statement warned that “there are signs of major human rights violations, and the possibility of this being one of the operations with the highest number of deaths in Rio de Janeiro.”
Two months ago, 25 people died in an operation in another Rio neighborhood, Vila Cruzeiro, and in May of last year there were 28 deaths in the Jacarezinho favela, making it the deadliest raid in the city’s history.