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Brazil police crackdown leave at least 44 people dead

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Deadly police action across Brazil in the past few days has reignited the debate over security forces’ use of lethal force. In the latest incident, police killed at least nine people in Rio de Janeiro.

Police said they returned fire in a shoot-out in the Complexo da Penha area, killing at least 10. Among those killed were “Fiel” and “Du Leme”, two alleged gang leaders in the impoverished Juramento and Chatuba favelas. Police seized seven rifles, ammunition and grenades from the suspects.

Police spokesperson Colonel Marco Andrade said: “Data from the intelligence sector indicated that a meeting was taking place between leaders of the criminal faction in the region.”

Earlier, 14 suspects died in clashes during a five-day police raid in São Paulo state, dubbed Operation Shield. The operation was sparked by the killing of a special forces police officer, Patrick Bastos Reis, on Thursday in the coastal town of Guarujá.

Fifty-eight people were arrested during the operation, which also seized 385kg of narcotics, as well as guns. São Paulo Governor Tarcisio de Freitas said police were targeting widespread organized crime in the region.

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

 And in the north-eastern state of Bahia, officials say 19 suspects have been killed since Friday. The clashes between police and gang members occurred in several cities, including Salvador, Feira de Santana and Lauro de Freitas.

The state security secretary Mauricio Barbosa said the operations were aimed at dismantling drug trafficking networks and reducing homicide rates.

Human rights concerns

The wave of police violence has raised concerns among human rights groups and local authorities, who suspect police used excessive force in the raids.

In May, a police operation in Rio’s Jacarezinho favela left 28 people dead, including one officer. It was one of the deadliest police raids in the city’s history and sparked international condemnation.

Brazil’s Supreme Court has imposed restrictions on police operations in Rio’s favelas during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have been frequently violated.

Brazil has one of the highest rates of police killings in the world. According to official data, more than 6,000 people were killed by police in Brazil in 2020, most of them black or mixed-race.

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