The background, as reported in the local news media, is that the “pacification” of a number of favelas (or shantytowns as the international press is calling them) has put a crimp in the income stream of many of the drug traffickers in the city. When revenue streams are down you just have to go seek new ones, right? Well, that is what they did but they made the mistake of moving outside of their shadowy life in the low income areas and moving into the middle class neighborhoods with kidnappings, holdups and other scary stuff. They were getting pretty brazen – creating blockades in neighborhoods and on highways and robbing the cars they stopped, burning cars and buses to create diversions, and generally being pretty hostile to law and order.
According to the papers this action was being directed by “gang bosses” who are currently in prison. This would be an interesting “Sopranos” episode if it were not true and if real people (including some tragic innocents) were not being killed.
So, in the last week, local and federal law enforcement took action. They have entered a number of closely situated favelas (aka shantytowns, slums, etc) with armored vehicles, tanks, the military and a very elite police squad that was created to deal with this situation (and that is featured in the excellent Tropa de Elite films).
As a result, dozens of people have been killed; hundreds arrested and – according to tonight’s news – some of the most dangerous favelas in the city have come under the control of police / government.
We watch the local news more than we did previously and are staying closer to home than normal but otherwise proceeding with the pre-holiday celebration activities of our new home/community. We pray that peace comes soon to the afflicted families that live in these besieged communities. The general reaction according to the local press is tremendous support for the police action and hope for an ultimate peace and safety in their communities.