RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro’s state government deployed hundreds of police officers early Monday to three of the city’s sprawling, low-income neighborhoods, saying it aimed to clamp down on organized crime groups.
Security forces targeted not only the Mare complex of favelas by Rio’s international airport, but also the adjacent Vila Cruzeiro neighborhood and the City of God neighborhood on the city’s opposite side. All three are controlled by the Red Command drug trafficking group.
Recent intelligence had indicated that crime bosses had migrated from Mare to the other two communities, Rio’s government said on X, formerly Twitter. It also said 1,000 officers participated in the three-pronged raid.
Residents of the communities started hearing shootouts soon after dawn, according to Fogo Cruzado, a nonprofit organization that provides real-time reporting of gun violence. Local media G1 reported that two police helicopters took fire and were forced to the ground.
The state government shared video of material it apprehended, including nearly 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cocaine paste, and said it had seized more than half a ton of marijuana and synthetic drugs. Officers had found two drug labs and arrested nine people as of midday.
On Friday, Rio Gov. Claudio Castro spoke about plans underway to strike back at organized crime groups that control vast swaths of territory.
“These aren’t good people of the community, they aren’t residents. They are bloody, violent, strongly-armed criminals and need to be combated with toughness and the strong hand of the state,” he said.
Last week, three doctors were executed at a beachside eatery, apparently in a case of mistaken identity, with one of the targets confused by attackers for the son of a local militia group.