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AT LEAST 14 people were killed in Rio de Janeiro on Monday as thousands of troops poured into the densely populated Alemao and Mare favelas during military operations.
Brazil’s army confirmed that 4,200 soldiers entered the slums and were backed by armoured vehicles and aircraft.
The military said that eight people were killed in the operation, admitting that “there may be more,” but no details were given on how they were killed or why.
Soldiers dismantled roadblocks they claimed had been set up by “drug gangs” who operate and control the impoverished favelas. They said the operation was a response to tip-offs from the public.
“Troops distributed leaflets asking for co-operation from the population,” a military statement said.
Right-wing President Michel Temer, who came to power in an administrative coup after the ousting of Dilma Rouseff, introduced emergency measures just over six months ago which saw the military take control of police forces in Rio de Janeiro.
But since the move, which was criticised by civil society groups as a step towards a return to Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964-1985, both murders and the numbers killed during police confrontations have risen.
In 2017 there were almost 64,000 homicides in Brazil and the increased levels of violence have become a key issue for October’s presidential elections.
In March, eight people were killed during a similar military operation in the Rocinha favela amid allegations of a revenge attack following the killing of a police officer.
The operation followed just 11 days after the shooting of Rio councillor Marielle Franco, who was a vocal critic of Rio de Janeiro’s police forces killing innocent civilians.
According to government statistics, 1,115 people were killed as a result of “opposition to police intervention” in Rio state.
Human rights activists warned that the deployment of soldiers marked a worrying development.
Observatory of the Intervention spokeswoman Silvia Ramos said: “We think this is very serious. If there is confirmation that the dead were executed by officers of the armed forces, it would be a troubling change.
“The armed forces cannot enter this logic of useless confrontations and unacceptable killings that are the hallmark of the Rio police.”
Two police officers are believed to be among those killed on Monday.
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