Operation Targeting Baile Funk Leaves 3 Dead

In the latest manifestation of Governor Wilson Witzel’s unofficial edict preventing the favela block parties, police from the 18th Police Battalion worked throughout the weekend to prevent any event from taking place.

Police from the 18th Police Battalion operate in Cidade de Deus {Photo: C.H. Gardiner)

Police from the 18th Police Battalion operate in Cidade de Deus {Photo: C.H. Gardiner)

Police worked throughout Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday in Rio’s Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela. The operation left three dead and five arrested.

Authorities from the 18th Police Battalion said they were acting to prevent a Baile Funk – a type of block party – from taking place in the community. 

During the early hours of the operation, police captured four men who were attempting to flee the community in a vehicle. Authorities said they arrested the men following a high-speed chase initiated when an off duty officer reported the car to police. In the car, police found a 9MM pistol, ammunition, marijuana, crack and powdered cocaine as well as “Lolo,” a liquid solvent which provides a short but intense high.

During a sweep of an area called Block 15, police say they came under fire from several criminals. In the back and forth, the police shot three alleged traffickers. Authorities said they evacuated the injured men to the Hospital Lorenço Jorge, but all three suspects arrived dead. Police said they found two pistols, two grenades, a radio transmitter and a large number of drugs.

Authorities said that they they arrested a man they suspect as being one of the regional managers for the drug gang in power of Cidade de Deus. According to authorities, he was captured after attempting to flee from police. The man was found to already have a warrant out for his arrest.

Since the election of Governor Wilson Witzel, police have been acting to shut down Baile Funks throughout Rio de Janeiro. Police speaking under the condition of anonymity have said that since the Governor has come into power, they have been instructed to prevent the parties from happening or face punishment.

A flyer advertising a Baile Funk featuring Dj Renan da Penha

A flyer advertising a Baile Funk featuring Dj Renan da Penha

Baile Funks take place in the open air of many favelas throughout Rio. The parties attract youth from throughout the state, and supporters say they are an important cultural element that has evolved from the improvised nature of the communities in which they take place. The musical style of Brazilian Funk, a homegrown form of hip-hop, came into existence because of the street parties. The Baile Funk culture has drawn parallels with the New York block party culture of the 70s and 80s that gave birth to Hip-Hop.

Critics of the scene say that drug traffickers run the parties to boost sales of narcotics and to glorify the culture practiced by the city’s criminal gangs. 

In the months since Governor Witzel has come into power operations throughout Zona Norte have taken place in advance of well known Baile Funks, like Penha’s Baile da Gaoila, with the apparent intention of preventing them from taking place. In March popular Dj Rennan da Penha was arrested under charges of association with trafficking in what supporters say is a politically motivated gambit. 

Critics of the move to outlaw Baile Funks said that it unfairly targets the more impoverished neighborhoods. Meanwhile, rich drug using party-goers in Ipanema and Copacabana are left unmolested.