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Brazil troops enter Rio favela ahead of World Cup

RIO DE JANEIRO--Brazilian reconnaissance troops entered a sprawling slum district near Rio's international airport early Wednesday ahead of a larger operation to secure the crime-ridden area ahead of the World Cup.

The federal troops joined police in the deployment in Mare to set the stage for a major joint drive to “pacify” a cluster of 16 neighborhoods home to around 130,000 people and seen as havens for organized crime.

The Rio state government meanwhile announced the arrest of a man suspected of being a drug kingpin in Mare. It said he went by the nickname Menor P., and that he was also wanted for homicide and torture.

Rio authorities last week asked the government to approve military support for police in favelas after a series of attacks on police units.

Authorities are stepping up efforts to quell the violence as the World Cup, which kicks off on June 12, looms ever closer.

Rio will stage seven matches, including the July 13 final.

President Dilma Rousseff on Monday confirmed the government would send troop support following an appeal for assistance by Rio governor Sergio Cabral.

Trafficker Territory

After decades battling organized crime in the favelas, the poor communities surrounding the city, authorities in 2008 launched a huge slum “pacification” program.

Since then, 38 Police Pacification Units (UPPs) comprising 9,500 officers have been installed in 174 favelas home to some 600,000 people.

But this year, renewed violence has claimed the lives of eight police officers — four of them in “pacified” districts.

Keeping a lid on crime has become key to Rio's bid to turn the city into an international showcase for the World Cup and the Rio Olympics in 2016, the first Olympiad in South America.

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A group of girls watch as a PM paramilitary police BOPE special unit sniper secures the area as Brazilian soldiers (not pictured) conduct a search for weapons in the Favela da Mare slum complex in the northern surburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Wednesday, March 26.

(AFP)

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