Thousands of Brazilian soldiers have fanned out in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious slums to provide security less than three months before the FIFA World Cup.
The security push on Saturday is considered the latest attempt to drive drug gangs out of the infamous Mare slum, which is located near Rio de Janeiro’s international airport and is considered a haven for organized crime.
Some 2,700 soldiers, sailors and military police entered the slum that is home to 130,000 people.
The operation was aimed at providing long-term security ahead of the tournament, officials said.
Security forces have reportedly had 36 confrontations with suspects in the neighborhood during the past week. Sixteen people died, eight were injured and 118 were arrested in the clashes.
Moreover, some weapons, including 24 grenades, two machine guns, 100 pistols and rifles, and assorted bullets, plus over 1,000 tons of marijuana, cocaine and crack were seized.
With the aim of improving security in Rio, the police have implemented the widespread “pacification” program since 2008.
Since then, murders in areas with Police Pacification Units (UPPs) presence have dropped by 65 percent and by 48 percent in the city as a whole.
Rio, which will also host the 2016 Olympics, is scheduled to stage seven World Cup matches, including the July 13 final.
Brazil is facing Croatia in the World Cup curtain-raiser on June 12.
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