Police wrest control of Rio’s largest favela

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Crack police forces early Sunday took control of Rio’s biggest favela from drug traffickers who had been ruling it for the past 30 years, local television reported. The long anticipated operation in a city that has one of the highest murder rates in the country is part of an official campaign since 2008 to restore security in Rio before the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which Brazil will host. Backed by navy armor and commandos, the troops punched their way into the Rocinha shantytown that is home to 120,000 people. Hundreds of special forces police and 200 navy commandos backed by armored vehicles and helicopters were involved in the operation. Police also moved simultaneously into the neighboring Vidigal favela. Authorities estimate that some 200 criminals remain inside Rocinha, built on a steep hillside overlooking the city and located between two wealthy neighborhoods, following last week’s capture of local drug kingpin Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, also known as Nem. The capture of Rocinha, the 19th favela to be pacified by police, recalled the huge operation launched by joint police and military forces to seize control of Rio’s Alemao favela, home to 400,000 people in November 2010. Alemao was retaken after three days of clashes that left 37 people dead. Endemic and chronic urban violence has long tarnished the image of Rio, where more than 1.5 million people live in 1,000 slums spread throughout the city.