Rio de Janeiro's top security official said authorities had seized control of the most dangerous slum in the city, as operations continued yesterday to locate drug gang members thought to be hiding inside.
Jose Beltrame, the state public security director who has been criticised by human rights groups in the past for his tough policing methods, said he was already setting his sights on the next slum district as he attempts to bring order to the city that will host the 2016 Olympic Games.
"The Alemao was the heart of evil," he said. "We have not won the war, but we've won a difficult and important battle." He said that his two-year-old programme to push gangs out of the city's sprawling shanty towns and replace them with permanent police posts was only beginning, and that he was looking ahead to the next area that police will try to clear – Rocinha, a sprawl of shanties and narrow alleys that is one of Latin America's largest slums.
He was speaking hours after 2,600 police and soldiers poured into Alemao at sunrise, supported by armoured personnel carriers and low-flying helicopters. Police estimated that at least 200 gangsters remained hidden in the slum and warned that sporadic shootouts were likely in the coming days as security forces searched the area.