In the 1970’s three major drug fractions named Commando Vermelho, Terceiro Commando, and Amigos dos Amigos established themselves in different favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The drug lords were able to take over control due to the state-free zone formation of certain favelas. The efforts of the militia, positioned to banish the drug dealers, did not lead to the release or the recovery of the occupied territories, but resulted in an ongoing war for supremacy.
Ever since drug trafficking, poverty, and violence have been a part of the residents’ everyday lives. Whereas the life conditions in close-by Copacabana and Ipanema have always been branded by abundance and extravagance. So far Rio de Janeiro was constituted of two contrary, completely detached areas. For years the Brazilian government has neglected the high crime rates and the results of the drug gangs’ terrorist regimes. The enormous crime rate has not escaped the attention of the world public. Rio is one of the cities with the highest murder rates worldwide.
Since 2009, when Rio de Janeiro has been elected the host of the World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic Games in 2016, public safety has become an important issue.
The shantytowns, primarily affected by the process of pacification, are those located close to the city center. This results in a shift of criminality to the more remote favelas in the north and east, whose consequence is a renewed battle for the territorial supremacy in these areas. The presumption that these measures are executed to regain the trust of sponsors and tourists is reasonable as the World Cup and Olympic Games are approaching.
The pacification process consists of four successive phases. The special police unit BOPE is responsible for ‘recovering’ and ‘stabilizing’ the favela. Those are the first two phases of the process. The ‘recovering’ of the favela is conducted by a hard-lined campaign against the drug fractions. It is a battle that claims a high number of (civilian) victims.
The second phase is devoted to stabilize and support the established state control.The last two phases ‘final occupational’ and ‘post-occupation’ are supposed to be established by the Pacification Police Unit, the UPP, ‘Unidade de Policia Pacificadora’. The purpose of the UPP is to promote a better relationship between the police and the citizens in order to prevent the return of the traffickers. It is their task to back the residents and to support the neglected social projects of the favelas, to encourage their inhabitants.
It is planned to have 100 of the 900 existing favelas pacified by 2016.
Since Rio’s police is regarded as particularly corrupt, the citizens of the favelas have little trust in them. In counter to this status, the UPP shall consist of young and specially trained police officers. The length of the UPP Officers’ training is one of the reasons why the entire program of pacification is taking several years.
In addition to the pacification program social projects are being arranged. Only a small extent is supported by the UPP and the government. The projects are rather provided by individuals, making efforts to give children a perspective. Recreational activities, educational training, and mental consolidation are aimed to protect children from the results of growing up in the midst of violence and drug trafficking. This happens irrespective of the state-ordered pacification program. The Brazilian government rather focuses on purging the favelas by military operations.