Rio residents allege abuses by military and 3rd soldier dies
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Residents in a Rio de Janeiro slum where thousands of troops recently conducted operations protested rough-handed tactics on Wednesday, as the military announced the third death of a soldier killed in clashes.
Members of the Rio’s Public Defender’s office human rights groups walked through the streets of Penha Complex and listened to allegations of human rights violations by soldiers who conducted major operations earlier this week. Those allegations included killing and leaving the bodies of several young men in a forest atop the complex of slums.
“In addition to the rights frequently violated, like entering homes (without a warrant), mistreatment and torture, there is an even more grave situation,” said Pedro Strozenberg from Rio’s Public Defender’s Office. “It’s (allegations of) homicides, deaths and bodies hidden in the forest.”
Soldiers patrolling the area did not let media or human rights groups access the forest. The allegations about the bodies could not immediately be confirmed.
An email sent to the military command asking for comment Wednesday was not immediately answered.
Meanwhile Wednesday, a soldier died of the wounds he sustained in a shootout earlier this week with suspected drug traffickers.
He was the third soldier to be killed in Monday’s confrontations between soldiers and armed traffickers in the neighborhoods of Penha, Mare and Complexo do Alemao. Five suspects were killed and another 10 were arrested.
The deaths of the three soldiers this week are likely to raise new questions about the controversial “federal intervention.” The military was put in charge of security in the state of Rio de Janeiro earlier this year after muggings and beatings were caught on camera during Carnival celebration. Soldiers have mostly played supporting roles to police during operations, but on Monday they were clearly in the lead.
The so-called “federal intervention” put thousands of soldiers in the streets and increased operations against drug-trafficking gangs that control many of Rio’s more than 1,000 favelas, or poor neighborhoods. Critics argue the intervention has targeted poor people, particularly blacks, and done nothing to address underlying issues like unemployment and income inequality.
“We live in the slum but we are not criminals,” said a resident in Penha who asked not to be identified out of fear for reprisal. “We just want peace and respect.”