As many know, Rio’s favelas (slums) were pockets in the city where the police had no presence or control. In an effort to control violence and lawlessness with the upcoming World Cup (2014) and Olympics (2016), special police units have been created to subdue and control the favelas in Rio. First, the BOPE enters (think military police specially trained in favela warfare) to kick out the drug dealers and take control (Jeremy wrote about it here). After a specific time, control is handed over to the UPP, Unidade de Policia Pacificadora (Pacification Police Unit), whose role is to maintain peace and order and be the law in the community. On November 30th, 2010, the UPP was officially inaugurated in Morro dos Macacos. What does the arrival of the UPP mean? Peace? Normalcy?
I've asked several residents what effect this has had on their lives. Do they see a difference? Most respond similarly, shrugging their shoulders and saying “things are mostly the same except that we don’t see guns.” Apparently the UPP only provides a more superficial "peace." But there is actually more crime now in the favela whereas before most of the crime (other than drug dealing) took place outside of it. When the drug traffickers were in control, residents would not dare steal from one another. Such crime was severely punished. A friend went to the hospital recently and saw a young boy with a bullet wound in the middle of his palm, a common consequence enforced by drug dealers on thieves. But now, when I ask if they can report these incidences of theft to the UPP, residents respond in horror, “no way”. You see, some of the drug gang has returned (though mixed in with the population) and they are watching to see who is talking to the police. Fear still rules in the hearts and minds of those living there.
This false display of peace is evident all over society, even down to the individual. Externally we have an impression of safety, order and tranquility, but internally there exists distress, corruption and violence. The only hope we have, as a society and individuals, is found in Christ and in letting “the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” (Col 3:15). Please join us in praying for this internal peace to come and reign in the hearts of all men.