Brazil police raids leave at least 50 people dead

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Police raids targeting drug gangs in three Brazilian states have left at least 50 people dead.

In the latest operation in Rio de Janeiro, police said they returned fire in a shoot-out in the Complexo da Penha area, killing at least 10.

Earlier, 14 people died in clashes during a five-day police raid in São Paulo state, dubbed Operation Shield.

And in the north-eastern state of Bahia, officials say 19 suspects have been killed since Friday.

Fifty-eight people were arrested during the operation in São Paulo state, which began after a special forces police officer was killed on Thursday in the coastal town of Guarujá.

Police seized 385kg of narcotics, as well as guns, according to local media.

The operation in Guarujá was criticised by Brazil’s Justice Minister Flavio Dino, who said the police’s reaction was not proportional to the crime committed.

During an interview on Tuesday, São Paulo state governor Tarcisio de Freitas said two police officers were among the 14 people killed during clashes.

In Rio de Janeiro, a drug trafficking kingpin and a trafficker were among the 10 people killed on Wednesday, according to local media reports.

Four others were injured, including a police officer.

According to the city’s military police, the operation in Complexo da Penha, a group of favelas in the north of the city, was launched after intelligence information suggested that a meeting of drug traffic ringleaders would be taking place in the area.

Eyewitnesses told local media they heard several gunshots and clashes between heavily armed gang members and the police.

Talíria Petrone, a member of the Rio state legislature, condemned the operation. She said there was “no explanation for the state to continue turning life in favelas into a hell like this”.

Schools around Complexo da Penha did not open on Wednesday, forcing about 3,220 pupils to stay at home.

House visits organised by the national health service were also suspended because of security concerns.

Instituto Marielle Franco – an NGO named after campaigning politician Marielle Franco who was murdered in 2018 – also publicly criticised the latest events.

“The slaughter repeats itself,” it said in a statement.

Before her death, Ms Franco was an outspoken councillor who had been critical of the police’s often deadly raids in densely populated shanty towns, or favelas, and denounced paramilitary groups run by retired and off-duty police known as milícias.
Every week, there are shoot-outs, leaving people dead.

Rio de Janeiro, our correspondent adds, is one of Brazil’s most violent states – and operations to tackle drug crime in areas such as favelas often lead to fatalities and accusations that the authorities are poorly trained and trigger-happy.

Meanwhile, in the north-eastern state of Bahia, clashes between police and gang members between Friday and Monday revolved around three cities – Salvador, Itatim and Camaçari.

The deaths included seven people killed in Camaçari on Friday and another eight people killed during clashes in Itatim on Sunday.

In Salvador, clashes between police and armed suspects killed four others and led to school closures in the area on Tuesday.

Guns, phones and drugs were seized during the three operations.

Our correspondent says it is a complicated picture in a country with a high level of gun violence, where fears about security are also growing. But, she adds, there are increasing calls to look into human rights abuses committed by the police.

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