A counter narcotics operation in Rio de Janeiro’s Maré favela has resulted in the states largest drug seizure.
Rio police conducted its largest drug seizure to date during an operation targeting organized crime in the north zone neighborhood of Maré, said Governor Wilson Witzel.
The raid started early Thursday with police using several large armored personal carriers to advance into the community under gunfire.
Maré is notorious for being dominated by several heavily armed factions fighting for territory on a block by block basis. Following extreme and ongoing levels of violence, the community was occupied by Brazil’s armed forces from 2014 to 2015. It is located less than 2 KM from the airport and is along the main route into the city for those arriving.
Authorities said that police recovered several tons of cannabis, a large quantity of hashish, and at least 172 kilos of coca paste which could be used to manufacture nearly a ton of cocaine.
In addition to the narcotics, police recovered 30 firearms, with 28 being rifles, 75 grenades, and a large number of munitions. Authorities also recovered an M1919 Browning medium machine gun – a large caliber firearm commonly mounted on aircraft and vehicles – from the scene.
Several of the weapons were personalized with the colors of local football teams or stencils with video game characters like Super Mario.
The large majority of the weapons and drugs were stored in a shipping container and were found by drug-sniffing dogs. The seizure was conducted by several of Rio’s Special Operations Units, including the BOPE, BAC, and CORE.
In a press conference following the operations, Governor Witzel commended the police on the action.
“ These weapons are not utilized by hard-working citizens that live in the community. They are not weapons used by poor, black, and favelados [residents of favelas.] They are weapons used by terrorists that utilize the community as a shield well-employing weapons of war,” said Witzel. He added that international cartels were supporting the gangs.
Residents of Maré have said that the timing of police operations puts innocent citizens at risk. A mother from the area said that by coming in early in the morning, police were showing up just when children were heading to school.
During the operation, stray bullets hit a nurse at the nearby Fundão hospital. The wound was non-life-threatening. Representatives from the hospital said that because of the location of the medical facility relative to the neighboring communities with difficult security, there is an ongoing risk of stray bullets.
In addition to the narcotics and weapons, five individuals were detained, including the second in charge of the local narcotics organization, Andriano Cruz de Oliveira. He is a fugitive from justice following being condemned to more than 35 years in prison.