At least eleven people have been killed in the Salgueiro favela complex, in the municipality of São Gonçalo, during a police operation on Thursday. The operation aimed to arrest the leaders of the Comando Vermelho, a criminal organization that originated in Rio de Janeiro, but has branches nationwide, including in the Amazonian state of Pará. The gang leaders were accused of being involved in several public security agent attacks in Pará, where around 40 police officers have been killed in clashes this year. Furthermore, they were suspected of having links to a jewelry store robbery in the exclusive Barra da Tijuca neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in 2020, which resulted in the death of a local security agent.
Reports show that upon arriving in the area, police officers were attacked by the criminals, and an intense exchange of gunfire ensued. As a result, among the eleven fatalities was Leonardo Acosta Araújo, 37, better known as “Leo 41,” who was considered the head of drug trafficking in Pará. Two female civilians were also injured during the operation, but their condition remains unclear.
According to the Civil Police, the operation involved elite teams from both the Civil and Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, with the support of their counterparts from Pará. The police also seized thirteen rifles, and two armored helicopters were made available for support. The Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Claudio Castro, confirmed that another leader associated with organized crime in Pará, along with the faction’s leader in Sergipe, was also arrested during the operation.
The use of force in Brazil’s favelas has long been criticized for human rights violations, excessive use of force, and for disproportionately affecting Brazil’s poor and marginalized populations. However, the actions of the police must be balanced against the growing criminal activity in these areas. While the operation may have been necessary to curb drug trafficking and identify those behind violent crime, authorities must continue to enact appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all citizens.