RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Reuters) – Brazilian federal agents arrested 75 state police troopers on Friday for links with organized crime in Rio de Janeiro state’s high-profile bid to get rid of corrupt cops.
A special federal police unit from the capital, Brasilia, and other cities arrived in Rio to make the arrests jointly with the state police internal investigations department. In the early hours on Friday, they raided a shantytown on the outskirts of Rio where some of the officers accused of involvement in drug and arms trafficking lived. Many others were arrested at their police stations.
A federal police spokesman in Rio de Janeiro said 320 federal agents took part in the operation, which led to the largest number of arrests of police officers in Rio state in one day. “We have to applaud this operation. It has a great symbolic value. By nabbing so many, police send a message to the force that they are being serious,” said Julita Lemgruber, director of the Center for Security and Citizenship Studies at Rio de Janeiro’s Candido Mendes University. “We hope they don’t stop here. We know that all kinds of organized crime blossom because they have some sort of police protection. It’s high time to reduce police involvement with drugs and arms trafficking, with car robberies and cargo theft,” Lemgruber added.
Lemgruber said Col. Ubiratan Angelo, Rio’s next police commander who will start working in January, “is committed to the issue of human rights and the fight against illegal activities within the police force,” and expected him to bring at least some improvements.
Human rights groups also accuse Rio police of brutal tactics such as summarily executing suspects in the slums and taking part in death squads. Police in the state kill about 1,000 suspects a year in consequences loosely described as “resistance to arrest,” a number comparable to some war zones.
Brazil’s second-biggest city, famous for its sandy beaches but also notorious for one of the world’s highest murder rates, has over 600 slums, where around 1 million people live. Many of the teeming slums are controlled by powerful drug gangs.
Washington Post Friday, December 15, 2006