Rio police operation leaves 8 dead despite Supreme Court lethality mitigation plan

Police raid in Vila Cruzeiro. Photo: André Coelho/EFE
Police raid in Vila Cruzeiro. Photo: André Coelho/EFE

Eight people died early on Friday morning during a military police operation in the northern Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Vila Cruzeiro. Residents sent reports of intense shootings since the early hours of the morning. Local schools and health units remained closed today as a precaution.

The raid in question targeted a gang of cargo thieves led by a notorious drug dealer known as Chico Bento, affiliated with the Comando Vermelho crime gang. Chico Bento was also the target of a similar police operation in the nearby Jacarezinho favela in May of last year, which left 28 dead.

So far, one man has been arrested and police seized seven assault rifles, 14 grenades, and four pistols.

Last week, Brazil’s Supreme Court decided to force the Rio de Janeiro government to elaborate a plan to reduce lethality in police operations. A report should be submitted within the next 90 days.

Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, who voted in favor of the measure, said that Rio de Janeiro is facing a “systematic situation” of human rights violations. “A veritable state of unconstitutionality is in place, considering the spread of violence from police authorities and the uncommon lethality of operations which are increasingly affecting civilians, innocent people, and those who cannot defend themselves.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court had already ordered that police operations during the pandemic in Rio can only be carried out in “exceptional circumstances.” However, a survey from the Federal Fluminense University shows that this order was ignored in 45 percent of cases.