The military campaign, the first of its scale since Brazil’s return to democracy in the 1980s, brought an outcry from human rights groups. Had this happened in the United States or Europe, some argued, lawsuits would have been filed. Communities would have rebelled.
But in Latin America’s largest nation where security has emerged as the No. 1 issue amid a surge of urban violence an extraordinary thing happened. Rather than view the move as an invasion, violence-weary residents of the favelas, or shantytowns, hailed it as a liberation.
“They want to check my ID? Fine!” said Magna Oliveira, 50, who runs a van-rental business in Vila Kennedy, a favela founded in the 1960s with the aid of U.S. funds disbursed by President John F. Kennedy’s government. One of Rio’s most violent slums, it is now the epicenter of the military takeover of the state’s security.
“Here, here,” she said, pretending to take multiple ID cards out of her pocket. “Check them. Please! I only wish I had more IDs for them to check. Everything has changed since they arrived. I feel free.”