Two Police Operations in Three Days Cause Psychological Terror for Residents and Leave Victims in the Favelas of Maré #VoicesFromSocialMedia

Complexo da Maré. Photo: Antoine Horenbeek
Complexo da Maré. Photo: Antoine Horenbeek

Clique aqui para Português

This article is part of RioOnWatch’s #VoicesFromSocialMedia series, which compiles perspectives posted on social media by favela residents and activists about events and societal themes that arise.

Community leaders, specialists, researchers, elected officials, and unnamed sources have protested on social media against the violence sanctioned by Governor Cláudio Castro’s administration in the favelas of Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone. Maré residents have once again experienced brutal violence by the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE), an elite squad of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police (PM).

At the time of the operations, which took place from Sunday night into Monday morning, April 16-17, many residents were walking in the streets and enjoying the end of their weekend. There were several cultural events taking place in the areas when caveirões, PM armored vehicles, and hundreds of police invaded the favelas that make up Complexo da Maré, initiating the confrontation.

“At 12:15am this Monday (April 17), police armored vehicles entered the favelas that make up Complexo da Maré. We have reports of shootings in Rubens Vaz, Nova Holanda, and Parque União favelas,” shared the NGO Redes da Maré in a Twitter post, at 12:55am. Were it not for the date of this more recent post, this ‘new information’ could have been easily confused with an ‘older’ post published just 48 hours earlier, on April 14, following yet another police invasion. This marked the second instance of police operations that the community in three days.

UPDATE | OPERATION 🚨 There are still reports of shots fired in Nova Holanda and Parque União areas, with the presence of two armored vehicles moving through the streets of the favelas.

According to a report by the Fogo Cruzado Institute, the first 100 days of Cláudio Castro’s government—who has been referred to as the “governor of massacres” by human rights organizations and favela social movements—were marked by an increase in victims of stray bullets and a lack of transparent policies concerning public safety. “Between January 1 and April 10 of this year, 52 people were victims of stray bullets in Greater Rio de Janeiro. This represents a 79% increase compared to the same period in 2022 [when 29 were killed],” shared the survey released by Fogo Cruzado, which also refers to the mapping of 1,014 shootouts that have occurred in Greater Rio.

Police Invasion on April 17 Brings Panic and Death to Maré

Residents recorded videos of the police operations on April 17; in these videos, which were widely circulated on social media, there are residents running and attempting to take shelter amidst smoke, pepper spray, sounds of gunshots, and shouting: “There are children here. It’s residents! It’s residents! It’s residents!” shouted a desperate man.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Maré Vive (@marevive)

Not even possible to take shelter. Tear gas is unbearable, residents won’t be able to sleep.

The Redes da Maré team takes action during police operations, including those that occurred on April 14 and April 17. They sheltered residents whose human rights were being violated. The NGO also produces information and develops projects and calls to actions in the quest to ensure effective public policies for the group of 16 favelas that make up Complexo da Maré. According to a note of protest released by Redes da Maré, entitled The Week Ends and Begins with Police Operations in Maré:

“We found out that at that moment, a baby shower was ending, [there was] a music event, and people were still walking in the streets. The presence of the ‘caveirão’ [armored] vehicle led to gunshots, scrambling, terror, and a lot of fear. With no information about what was happening, residents sought shelter in the favela’s streets or found ways to get to Avenida Brasil.”

In the note, the organization protests Governor Cláudio Castro’s continuous infringement of the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF)’s ruling aiming to reduce police lethality in favelas, brought by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which restricts carrying out police operations in favelas during the pandemic: the Claim of Noncompliance with a Fundamental Order 635 (ADPF 635). The police is required to communicate and justify any exceptions to the rule. As such, 11 points required by the STF judges, and listed in the Redes da Maré note as unaddressed during the recent operations, include: the State’s guarantee of medical ambulances in places where police operations occur in order to provide first aid to those injured; monitoring through body cameras and vehicles’ GPS; maintaining the scene where the harmful act took place and conducting a criminal investigation; and banning night operations, such as the one that took place on April 17.

Two people were injured in the police operation and taken to Getúlio Vargas State Hospital (HEGV), where one of them died. The psychological terror of this confrontation struck residents over the course of many hours at night and into Monday morning.

Rene Silva, founder of the newspaper Voz das Comunidades, denounced the situation on Twitter. He posted a screenshot from a WhatsApp conversation in which a friend recounts that a police officer put a rifle in her face and threatened to kill everyone, including the children present.


Screenshot of the conversation:

Unidentified Friend: Buddy, the police just pointed an assault weapon in my face and said he would kill all the kids here. He said he knows who I am. I’m terrified

Rene: God!!! Where are you now???

Unidentified Friend: Man, the despair. The pain. I can’t stop crying. I’m stuck at the Family Clinic with a bunch of kids.

Rany: I’m stuck in a bar in Parque União, I live in Nova Holanda. There’s no way to get in. Lots of pepper spray. There is a report of a shot that killed someone.

Commenting on the post published at 1:03am, with more than 1.2 million views, other residents also reported being cornered in the middle of the shooting, suffocated by pepper spray from projectiles thrown by the police. There are 140,000 people living in Maré’s favelas.

 Midnight on a Sunday in Parque União, there’s a square full of life. There’s pagode, there’s a food court, there’s everyday life going on like everywhere else. You don’t know that because you think in the favela there’s only poverty, and at midnight the poor should be sleeping.

Raphael Vicente is a 22-year-old who has achieved notable success on social media with his comedy videos that he stars in alongside his family; he is the face of the new gshow Internet and TV marketing campaign. In a moving post, published on his profile, he stated that he doesn’t know how to write about violence, but that sometimes violence makes it necessary to write:

“I never know how to start writing about this subject. I think it’s because deep down, I don’t want to have to write about it. My goal with my work is to show everything that the media doesn’t show about favelas: joy, love, and all the power that exists here. And talking about the violence we constantly suffer here in Maré always hurts me a lot. But it’s necessary. I’ve lived here for 22 years and I know that even the violence that the media loves to talk about, the same media also makes a point of omitting and lying about it.”

The post was published at 5:54pm on April 17, the same day of the police operation, during the Twitter storm “#AFavelaQuerViver” (#FavelaWantsToLive) posted by Maré residents, community-based movements in the favelas, civil society organizations, and even elected officials. Tagging the Twitter handles of Governor Cláudio Castro and Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Vicente questions whether police operations in Rio’s South Zone party scene, amidst middle and upper class neighborhoods, are also carried out with such aggression and violations.

And the eternal feeling that your life is worthless if you’re from the favela.

It’s revolting to hear every day Tino Junior saying that anyone in the favela is a bandit and congratulating the State

while we are afraid to leave our homes because at any moment this state can kill us

Dear @claudiocastroRJ and @eduardopaes

Is this the same treatment given to those who attend drug-filled parties in the South Zone/upper class?

Was it the same treatment when they found 117 rifles in Barra da Tijuca’s condominium villas?


The education and health sectors were also disrupted by the police operation: 23 schools did not operate on Monday, April 17, affecting 8,274 students, according to Rio’s Municipal Education Secretariat. The Jeremias Morais da Silva Family Clinic also had its service suspended during the day.

In 2023, police operations in Rio de Janeiro have affected 80,000 students. Data from the Municipal Education Secretariat show that between February and March 2023, schools had to trigger their security protocols 1,322 times.

Maré’s favelas were the target of three police operations in April alone. On April 5, a BOPE caveirão invaded the courtyard of a learning center in the Nova Holanda favela to arrest suspects allegedly hiding there. The school building was empty; classes had been canceled hours earlier.

Yet, in a video that circulated on social media, one can see the moment when two caveirões—the Military Police’s armored vehicles—enter the schoolyard and terrorize both children and adults.

Today was supposed to be another day of festivities at schools and children are surprised by more violent policies.

What kind of security is this that they preach? It only brings violence and threatens lives. The governor @claudiocastroRJ doesn’t care!

Video via resident. #marelives

Lives Interrupted: #MaréCallsForPeace

Throughout the day, residents of various favelas and elected officials protested on Twitter using the hashtags #AFavelaQuerViver (#FavelaWantsToLive) and #AMaréPedePaz (#MaréCallsForPeace).

Maré had a tense night and the operation was still happening in the morning. Starting the week with fear is unfortunately routine in the favelas. Residents have their right to come and go denied and their right to life put at risk. Enough, #FavelaWantsToLive!

In a little while, at 6pm, we’re going to do a Twitter storm to end the governor’s @claudiocastroRJ deadly policy in the favelas. Let’s fight and show that #FavelaWantsToLive and #MaréCallsForPeace!

The feeling is that we are either drying ice or cleaning coal.
It’s not possible! Maré, like other favelas, is home to people who, for the most part…work, study, pay taxes, and just want to live! #FavelaWantsToLive #StopKillingUs

Camila Moradia, a community leader from Complexo do Alemão, also stated that “poverty is not a crime” and said that the favela just wants “to work, take their children to school, go to the medical center.” She added: “Being a favela resident is not a crime!”

“This situation has left us all very traumatized, I couldn’t sleep, I heard screams all the time.” Yet another account of the suffering and fear facing Maré residents after today’s police operation. #FavelaWantsToLive! #MaréCallsForPeace

The Brota na Laje Collective recalled that the two police operations within three days in Maré occurred during the 20 year anniversary of the Borel Massacre.

This Sunday (April 16) marks the 20th anniversary of the Borel Massacre. It has been two decades without Justice. Yet, at the end of the night, we have news that a police operation has ravaged Maré, instilling fear among residents and suspending many services + #FavelaWantsToLive

Marielle asked, and we too ask: how many more people need to die before this war is over? #FavelaWantsToLive

The protests on social media against the police operations and the violations of the right to the favela were even published in French and Italian.


The governor @claudiocastroRJ persecutes the favelas and transforms the life of the population who need to work and study into a real hell. Maré is beaten violently. #favelawantstolive

Police Invasion Interrupts and Threatens Elected Official in Maré on April 14

On April 14, the NGO Redes da Maré had the launch event of its researchViolence, Bodies, and Territory: About the Lives of Women in Maré” interrupted by a police operation. State Deputy Renata Souza, born and raised in Maré, was a guest at the event and had to take shelter, along with 70 other women who were taking part in the meeting, because of the shots fired during a nearby police operation.

DESPERATE. I AM SHELTERED IN MARÉ WITH 70 OTHER WOMEN, CORNERED, AND AFRAID. The launch of a survey on public safety for women from the favelas has just been interrupted by a police operation without any justification, at the time that children leave school.

Souza also stated that this is not the first time she has experienced such a situation, which she recalled as “terrifying.” However, it was her first experience of this kind as an elected official.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Renata Souza (@renatasouzario)


The qualitative study takes an empirical analysis of reports on how shootings impact the lives of women in the region’s favelas. In addition to Redes das Maré, researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) worked with two British institutions, the universities of Warwick and Cardiff.

According to monitoring by Redes da Maré, 27 police operations were recorded in Maré in 2022: that’s one every 13 days. According to the last Brazilian Public Security Annual Report, published in 2022 by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, most victims of deaths resulting from police interventions in Brazil are male (99.2%), Black (84.1%), and under 29 years old (74%).

About the author: Tatiana Lima is a journalist and popular communicator at heart. A Black feminist, member of Complexo do Alemão’s Researchers in Movement Study Group, she is currently special reporter with RioOnWatch. A fair-skinned Black woman, born and raised in a favela, Lima currently lives in Rio’s periphery and is a doctoral student at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

Support RioOnWatch’s tireless, critical and cutting-edge hyperlocal journalism, online community organizing meetings, and direct support to favelas by clicking here.