For years, the Mare favela, next to Rio de Janeiro’s international airport, has been home to gangsters and drug peddlers, but authorities have finally decided to tackle the situation. So what is that awoke law enforcers from their long slumber and prompted them to take action.
The FIFA Soccer World Cup, of course.
With the help of marines, the heavily armed and bulletproof-jacket-clad police wrested control of the area from drug lords. The Brazilian government wants to make the city as safe as possible before the eyes of the world turn to the South American nation for the soccer.
However, the question one must ask is: had there not been a mega event like the world cup, would the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to the rampant crime in slums like this one?
Clearly, they have the resources to occupy the area and take matters into their hands.
After all, the police and soldiers – with their tanks and helicopters – took barely 20 minutes to take over the northern slum complex which houses 130,000 poverty-stricken people. Once there, the forces quickly swung into action, seizing weapons and 450 kilos of marijuana.
The operation, announced on Friday, sent the drug traffickers scurrying and according to residents, most of them slipped out ahead of the occupation. However, two suspects were arrested.
"This is a strategic area for us, a city within the city. Traffickers have been there for years," Rio de Janeiro state security chief, José Beltrame, told reporters.
Years you say? It would have perhaps taken a few more of these years for the Brazilian authorities to clean up the neighborhood had the mega city not been hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics Games.
Mare surrounds the expressway to Galeao airport, where thousands of foreigners will land in June to support their soccer teams.
In a way, it is sport that has come to the rescue of those people that wanted their neighborhood to be free of drugs and crime. Hopefully the law enforcers will continue in the same stead even after the two mega events as the favelas in Rio are home to some of the most violent criminals, not just in Brazil, but the world over.
Here are some more images of the operation.