Resident account on the state of violence in the community of Complexo do Alemão.
Today I woke up reflecting on what is going on in my favela. I started to realize that we have been led to believe that peace was within reach. We were deceived.
Recent events have shown and are leading us to believe that an uncorrectable mistake was made in this community. In my humble view this so-called Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) project forgot a central character: the human being, the residents of the areas to be “pacified.” The aim was to gain visibility for the program. The main concern was to show the world that the state of Rio de Janeiro is “safe” to receive thousands of visitors for the Confederations Cup, World Youth Day, the FIFA World Cup and lastly the Olympics. But someone forgot to invite the poor population to these parties.
In a promise to poor favela residents, military occupations were imposed after 40 years of absence of the State. It was a misleading and barefaced lie that the best way to carry out pacification would be the implantation of UPPs.
For us, favela residents, the image we always had of the police was that it came into the favelas to “solve the problem” (read: kill the drug dealers). Local people were never respected during operations–shots were fired randomly, and we never knew where they were going. Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police never liked favelas, but it was always in the favelas where police officers had the highest salary increases (money “on the side,” if you know what I mean).
They thought that suddenly with a wave of a magic wand, favelas would accept and embrace the new police officers as friends. This did not happen and will be difficult to ever realize, as the institution’s past is full of errors and corruption that further distances us.
Speaking about Complexo do Alemão, where I live, there was an initial promise of peace. According to media reports from November 2010, with an armed pyrotechnic circus and the media spreading news across the world that the territory was being reclaimed, the State pronounced its presence. There was a certain fear and apprehension of what was to come, which to today we are still waiting to see the benefits of.
There was a ceasefire period and a false sense of peace. For a moment we even thought it was likely that pacification would work out… we were wrong.
We knew this year would be a political year, with big interests at play: politicians competing with each other to either remain in or claim power. The election became a matter of national security, which is exactly what we are seeing and tasting the bitter effects of.
The State has failed overwhelmingly in its mission to bring peace. It filled the favela with police, more and more police, and, with no evidence that the situation was improving, brought even more police. The true face of “pacification” began to show: this police, though dressed in a “new uniform,” was still the same old police. Just like the old police, the same habits blossomed. As a consequence of installing under-prepared police to confront a giant, violations intensified…As every action leads to a reaction, frequent shoot-outs became a daily occurrence once again, and indicate an unprecedented political dispute without limits.
During the World Cup there was a ceasefire, but even so, five innocent people had already died due to police misconduct–and the police officers themselves had expressions of fear and dread stamped on their faces.
Recent events have caused general despair amongst all Alemão residents. The number of people killed or shot has risen, causing popular unrest and ever increasing anger at the security policy adopted by the State. The most horrific case was that of young Caio Moraes, whose death became a symbol of the struggle for human rights. He was shot in the chest as he was working, with a shot fired from a pistol by a UPP officer. Caio was a mototaxi driver and had just left a passenger in an area known as Grota, where residents were carrying out a protest against the shooting of another resident.
Caio died instantly and his death caused even more unrest and anger. There was also the case of Antônio França, a 60 year old resident who also died with a shot to the chest fired by a UPP officer, on Sunday afternoon, July 27. On the same day, the teenager, Izaquel, 15 years old, was shot by Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) officers in the leg and the eye and lost his vision.
The behavior of these agents of the State has been totally inappropriate: stop and searches with no specific criteria; invading houses without a search warrant; and complete disrespect for residents who have nothing to do with all that has gone wrong. We have seen young people being physically and verbally abused, which creates rebellion in young people who are already denied many opportunities. I would go as far as to say that the police themselves have stimulated a growth in the ranks waiting to combat them.
Other favelas have been going through the same situation as our community.
The worst thing about all this is that young people, between 14 and 25, are the overwhelming majority of those who have been shot. On the day I first write this, September 27, Marcos Heleno, only 17 years old, also died with a shot to the chest (it is not a coincidence–it is always a bullet to the chest). The next day, a Sunday, another teen, Wesley, 15, was shot in the leg. He is recovering well.
The security project is widely discredited. An abyss of fear and uncertainty has been created; everyone now wants the UPP project to leave.
With all of the above, our favela Complexo do Alemão is BLEEDING. The alleyways have marks which will never be erased, the marks of innocent blood, results of the State’s attempts to pacify through force.
In conclusion, the UPP must start doing its job because so far, instead of being a PACIFYING POLICE UNIT, today it is more like an Unidade de Polícia Perdida–A LOST POLICE UNIT.