Around 900 soldiers from Brazil's armed forces have descended on the working class neighborhood of Vila Kennedy in Rio de Janeiro. The operation, which began Wednesday, is coordinated by the Federal Intervention Cabinet and involves the Joint Command and the Department of Public Safety and incorporates helicopters, armored vehicles, and other heavy machinery and weapons.
Rio de Janeiro's Civil Police force is also participating in the operation. Having cordoned off all access to the community, their primary objective is to carry out a series of arrest warrants, according to Agencia Brasil EBC.
A statement released by the East Military Command read: “Some streets and accesses in these areas can be inhibited and portions of the airspace can be brought under control in due time with dynamic restrictions for civil airplanes.”
On Feb. 16, Brazil's federal government, led by Senate-imposed president Michel Temer, dispatched the army to assume full control of police forces in the state of Rio de Janeiro. The move was in response to increased violence and drug gangs who have “virtually taken over,” according to Temer.
Approximately 3,200 soldiers now patrol public streets in predominantly poor, working-class neighborhoods.
Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff characterized the intervention as being a means to create an enemy, which “in Brazil's case, is poor Black people who live in periphery neighborhoods...It's not white people who live in Ipanema nor in Leblon."
At the end of last month, Temer said he would not rule out military interventions in other states. He also named an army general, Joaquim Silva e Luna, to head the Ministry of Defense. It's the first time since Brazil's military dictatorship (1964 – 1984) that a civilian hasn't held this government post, according to the local Marco Press.