According to state police, twenty-five people were killed in a police anti-drug raid in a slum in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, despite a Supreme Court order prohibiting such operations except in “completely extraordinary” circumstances during the pandemic.
According to the state government’s Institute for Public Security, the widely criticized raid in the Jacarezinho favela was one of the deadliest operations in the history of Rio de Janeiro, a 17-million-strong state that saw 1,239 people killed by the police in 2020 alone (ISP.)
The aim of the operation, according to a spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police, was to prevent drug dealers from pressuring minors to join gangs, according to a press conference held late Thursday. “We went to that community to guarantee the rights of that population that lives under the dictatorship of drug trafficking,” Felipe Curi, director of the General Department of Specialized Police said.
200 officers were involved in the operation, which police said came after months of investigation and was aimed at preventing drug dealers from forcing minors to join gangs. The raid resulted in the arrest of six people and the capture of 20 weapons, as well as “abundant amounts of drugs” according to the police.
Curi said that 24 of the dead were criminals and drug traffickers who tried to kill police officers, but he provided no proof or detail on police attempts to apprehend them.
Curi also argued that the raid did not breach the ban because the Public Ministry, a prosecutorial body, had been informed in advance, as required by the court for extraordinary raids.
The Public Ministry, on the other hand, said in an official statement that it was only informed of the operation after it had already begun. The ministry also stated that any suspected violations committed during the raid would be investigated.
The deadly raid sparked widespread outrage among Rio de Janeiro’s civil society, with many calling it #ChacinaDoJacarezinho, or #TheJacarezinhoMassacre, in reference to the low-income neighborhood where it occurred.
On his Twitter account, Marcelo Freixo, a congressman representing Rio for the Socialism and Liberty Party, denounced the activity. “This public security policy is INSANITY that needs to be stopped. Terrified families, people shot inside their homes, residents injured when they left for work, innocent people murdered, a police officer dead,” he wrote.
Passengers were wounded in the shootout, according to Metro Rio, the organization in charge of the subway, which told CNN that two passengers were hit by stray bullets.
Anti-drug operations in Rio de Janeiro’s heavily populated favelas are prohibited except in “completely extraordinary” circumstances during the pandemic, according to the Brazilian Supreme Court, in order to avoid jeopardizing already-stressed public health and humanitarian services.
Despite the ban, police use of lethal force has remained common, according to Human Rights Watch in the United States, which cited data from the ISP. According to the government’s institute, 453 people were killed by police in Rio de Janeiro in the first three months of this year, an average of around five a day, and four officers were killed during the same time span.
Ceclia Olliveira, executive director of Fogo Cruzado, a shared digital network that tracks data on armed violence in real time, including sending out early alerts of the shots fired in Jacarezinho this morning, said heavily armed raids on favelas are not the best way to keep residents safe. “Residents, subway riders, and wounded police officers would be saved if an intelligence-based action was taken. Such a course of action [as today’s] is disastrous “CNN was told by her.