Confusion Over Future of the UPP Program

Rio’s favela pacification policy–whereby specially trained Military Police occupy and then establish Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) to take territorial control over communities previously controlled by drug trafficking gangs or militia–has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months following the disappearance and torture of bricklayer Amarildo de Souza in Rocinha, cases of inappropriate use of force, and persistent reports of clashes between police and drug gangs in UPP neighborhoods. On Sunday, the Folha de São Paulo newspaper reported that the Rio State Security Secretariat was suspending the implementation of new units to try to “save” the program. The next day, on Monday afternoon, the Secretariat released a statement stating there would be no change to the program. Read below two translated news reports, both of which point to this difficult moment for the program and growing doubts over its future.  


Rio Military Police Freeze Creation of New Pacifying Police Units

For the original by Marco Antônio Martins in Portuguese in Folha de São Paulo click here.

Rio’s State Secretariat of Security has decided not to create new Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in the next seven or eight months. During this period, the units’ command will undergo a series of measures to “save” the project.

The evaluation of the Military Police is that cases such as that of 43-year-old bricklayer Amarildo de Souza, who disappeared after being brought to Rocinha’s UPP base by police officers, as well as gunfights that have occurred in the Complexo do Alemão favela, have damaged the credibility of the program.

“The practices of Major Edson [dos Santos, ex-commander of the UPP in Rocinha and one of the people charged with the disappearance of Amarildo] destroyed the confidence of residents, and we need to recover it,” said the captain of the UPPs, Colonel Frederico Caldas.

Currently, there are 34 UPPs, with a total of 8,592 police officers.

At the end of the month, two more will be inaugurated: Lins and Camarista Meier, both in the North Zone. With this growth, the UPPs will comprise 15% of the total 60,000 military police officers.

Following this, the police do not intend to inaugurate new units for the next seven or eight months.

During this period, new military police that leave the police academy will be sent to the battalions and no longer to the pacification units in the favelas, as was happening until now.


Folha de São Paulo has learned, alongside the Secretariat of Security, that the units have received classification by colors.

Those that received a good evaluation are identified by the color green. Those that are in a situation of alert, yellow. And those considered poor are indicated by the color red.

Only two UPPs received the “green” classification: Santa Marta in the South Zone, the first UPP to be installed in 2008, and Batan in the West Zone.

The favelas of Rocinha in the South Zone of the city and the complexes of Alemão and Penha in the North Zone received the “red” classification.

The colonel, who has been UPP captain for three months taking up the post after the disappearance of Amarildo, presented to the State Security Secretary, José Mariano Beltrame, a diagnosis of the UPP situation and suggestions to preserve the program.

Among those suggestions are changes to how suspects are approached. The way in which the police act in this type of situation is favela residents’ main complaint in areas with UPPs. “Bringing any suspect to the UPP bases is prohibited,” confirmed Colonel Caldas.

In the case of Amarildo, according to investigations, the bricklayer was brought to the UPP Rocinha and tortured until death by police. Some officers who were in the adjacent room stated they had heard the torture. The body of Amarildo still has not been found.

During the evaluation by the UPP command, Colonel Caldas also established that some police circulate in the favelas without identification on their uniforms; others use private vehicles during supposedly official operations.

Despite all of this, the Colonel evaluated the problems that he’s faced during these 90 days in command of the UPPs as “specific” and that he has simply “shaken up” the functioning of the program. “Stability doesn’t necessarily mean everything is okay. It could be stable because the police is bought off, there is corruption, drug trafficking provides money, the illegal lottery pays,” he said.


The pacifying units of Rio’s Military Police have also suffered with the financial problems of the EBX group, owned by businessman Eike Batista.

A survey by the command established there are 38 cars off the road due to lack of maintenance.

The work was done by OGX, Eike’s petroleum company that went to the courts with a request for judicial settlement. With his companies in crisis, Eike Batista retracted the support he gave to the pacifying units.

Maintenance is now being done by the Military Police.

Another problem is that 10 UPPs continue functioning in temporary containers. “A base is needed that demonstrates the process is definitive,” affirmed the colonel.

Rio: Government Says Pacification Will Continue Despite Increase in Violence

For the original in Portuguese in Jornal do Brasil click here

This Monday afternoon, the Rio de Janeiro state government and the State Secretariat of Security released an official notice affirming that Rio’s public security policy will continue, despite the increase in violence that has been reported in recent weeks in the areas with Pacifying Police Units (UPP). In the notice, they confirmed the initial project of 40 UPPs will remain standing until the end of 2014, and that the favela Complexo da Maré, the area with the greatest number of reports of violence recently, will be occupied in the first trimester of the coming year.

At the weekend, an article in the newspaper Extra reported that part of the community of Pavão-Pavãozinho, occupied by a UPP, has already been retaken by drug trafficking, along with intimidation of residents. The commander of the UPPs, Colonel Frederico Caldas, affirmed the process of pacification is complicated, but it will not be interrupted.

At the beginning of the month, UPP coordinators transferred 70 police officers from the Rocinha unit to other areas of the South Zone due to the increase in tension between police and residents after the disappearance of bricklayer Amarildo de Souza on July 14. Following this occurrence, the reports of shootouts in the community have been constant, including some during the day. Also at the beginning of the month, a military police officer was killed in the Parque Proletário UPP, in the Complexo do Alemão favela.