Attended a UPP training morning in Jardim Sulacap, the millitary police training unit in zona Oeste, the most impoverished region of Rio de Janeiro, this morning.  The UPP are moving into Mangueira and the BOPE are in there at the moment, clearing the decks so to speak.  Once they are deemed to have cleared the community of trafficantes, using whatever force necessary, the UPP will move in.  499 trainee UPP officers sat through a morning of motivational training, watching a film about a paraplegic, and another showing a series of near misses to illustrate the concept of opportunity.

Many officers looked bored as they sat through this morning pep-talk, which I can’t help but wonder about.  The press were invited along today, and the use of these videos seemed a bit, well a bit baited for publicity really.  Media and politics are very closely linked in Brasil (and in many other places), and the UPP consistently get very positive press coverage.  Attending today’s junket, one can see why.

The military focus was not completely lost in all the love and hand holding, as cadets sprang to their feet and barked out answers if posed a question.  Scanning the crowd, it seemed the female officers were listening most attentively to the messages of love and roses, and maybe for the first time.  Amid all of this positivity, acceptance and warmth towards our fellow humans living in favela communities, the word “conquest” was consistently used by coronel Rogerio Seabra, possibly showing a more apt idea of what UPP is about.

The UPP officers-to-be were then addressed by Priscila, psychologist for the BOPE wihle reporters were brought outside to chat with el capitano.

 

Asked about an exchange of gunfire in recent nights in a pacified favela, coronel Seabra shrugged, saying this can happen.  No-one was hurt, he said, and we got the bad guy.  One wonders about the veracity of comments to panting reporters as injuries are generally denied until later proven otherwise.

Asked whether UPP would remain after the Olympic Games end and international media attention moves away, he stated that there was no other future alternative for Rio de Janeiro, and that they are planning to retain UPP Social for the next 20 years.  This has not been officially verified.  Questions remain as things tend to be done rather half-heartedly around here. The work done in newly re-opened Praca Tiradentes in Centro, which was closed off to the public for the best part of a year is already cracked in places – a fitting metaphor for Rio’s preparation for it’s international  shows in years to come.

Seabra also denied that there was any such thing as a ‘hotel corridor’ – the name given to the strategic placement of UPPs in favela communities which fringe touristic areas of Rio.

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I’m being somewhat dissuaded from talking to residents in communities about the UPP, as a code of silence exists, that few dare to break.  The residents kept their mouths shut while the drugs traffickers were in charge for genuine fear of reprisal, and will do the same now the cops are in town for the very same reasons.  No-one really knows how long the cops will stay for either, so it’s best to say nothing to anybody about anything,.  Who knows what the future holds.  People living in favela communites have “no eyes, no ears, and no mouths,” apparently.

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Lots of interviews lined up now for the coming days.  Schedules running tight, to get as many people as possible fitted in while I’m here.

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