Police raids leave over 45 people dead in just one week

A series of police raids targeting drug gangs in Brazil has resulted in a significant loss of life, with at least 45 people dead across three states. The latest operation in Rio de Janeiro saw a fierce shoot-out in the Complexo da Penha area, leaving 10 individuals dead. In São Paulo state, clashes during a five-day police raid, known as Operation Shield, claimed the lives of 16 people. Additionally, 19 suspects were killed in the northeastern state of Bahia. These raids have sparked concerns about police violence and human rights abuses in Brazil.

In Rio de Janeiro, the recent operation resulted in the deaths of a drug trafficking kingpin and a trafficker, along with eight others. Four individuals, including a police officer, were injured. The operation was launched based on intelligence suggesting a meeting of drug traffic ringleaders in the Complexo da Penha area. Witnesses reported hearing gunshots and clashes between heavily armed gang members and the police. The operation faced criticism from Talíria Petrone, a member of the Rio state legislature, who condemned the state’s approach to favelas, stating that it turned life into a living hell.

In São Paulo state, Operation Shield was initiated after a special forces police officer was killed in Guarujá. During the five-day raid, 58 people were arrested, and 385kg of narcotics, as well as firearms, were seized. However, Brazil’s Justice Minister Flavio Dino criticized the police’s response, deeming it disproportionate to the crime committed. São Paulo state governor Tarcisio de Freitas confirmed that two police officers were among those killed during the clashes.

In Bahia, clashes between police and gang members occurred in three cities: Salvador, Itatim, and Camaçari. The confrontations resulted in the deaths of 15 individuals, with seven killed in Camaçari, eight in Itatim, and four in Salvador. The operations led to school closures and the suspension of house visits organized by the national health service due to security concerns. Guns, phones, and drugs were confiscated during these operations.

Organizations such as Instituto Fogo Cruzado and Instituto Marielle Franco have criticized the raids, describing them as “mass killings” and highlighting the need to address these abuses. The late Marielle Franco, a prominent politician, had been vocal about the deadly police raids in favelas and the presence of paramilitary groups.

The recent raids have sparked a renewed debate on the tactics employed by law enforcement agencies and the need for improved training to prevent unnecessary loss of life. São Paulo’s military police have implemented a body camera program since 2020, resulting in a 61% decrease in the number of people killed by the police in the first two years of the initiative. There are calls for similar measures to be implemented on a federal level.