“A Rio de Janeiro slum erupted in violence late Tuesday following the killing of a popular local figure, with angry residents setting fires and showering homemade explosives and glass bottles onto a busy avenue in the city’s main tourist zone,” The Associated Press writes.
CNN says that “residents from the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela took to the streets of Copacabana after a young male dancer was found dead, state-run Agencia Brasil said. The residents told Brazilian media they blame the police for the death, accusing authorities of mistaking the dancer for a criminal.”
The protests led to at least one other fatality. According to the BBC, “a man was shot dead during the violence on Tuesday night.”
The violence came just seven weeks before the start of soccer’s World Cup, which is being staged in Brazil. The clashes with police were also just a few hundred yards from the venue where Olympic swimming events are due to be held in 2016.
As NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has reported, in advance of those high-profile competitions authorities have been concerned about security and the possibility of protests during the events.
Last November, she noted, gangs of youths swarmed Rio’s tourist beaches, committing mass robberies. “Add to that the possibility of massive protests by an angry public that has had to finance the hugely expensive construction of the stadiums and you have a litany of woes that isn’t showing Brazil in its best light,” she said on All Things Considered.
The AP reminds us that:
“Police began an ambitious security program in 2008 to drive the gangs from such slums and for the first time set up permanent posts. It is part of Rio’s overall security push ahead of the World Cup that begins this June and the Olympics the city will host.
“So far, 37 such ‘police pacification units’ have been created covering an area with a population of 1.5 million people.
“But there have been repeated complaints of heavy-handed police tactics that have ended in the deaths of residents, and that is what set off the latest clashes, residents said. More than two-dozen police face charges from a high-profile case in a different shantytown, when investigators said a local man died while being tortured by police.”