Violence erupted on Tuesday night in a Rio de Janeiro slum after the death of 25-year-old Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, whose body was found earlier on Tuesday. Pereira was a popular dancer for a TV show on Brazil's Globo network.
"The police beat my friend to death, just like they've tortured and killed in other communities," said Johanas Mesquita, a 23-year-old resident of Pavao-Pavaozinho, to the Associated Press. "This effort to pacify the favelas is a failure, the police violence is only replacing what the drug gangs carried out before."
After discovering the body, angry residents of the Pavao-Pavaozinho slum took to the streets of the city's tourist region and started lighting fires throughout the slum. They also threw homemade explosives, burning tires, and glass bottles down the main avenues of Copacabana. After the protests took a turn for the worse, the Ipanema metro station was closed down for precautionary measures and nearby hotels locked their doors.
In response to the violence, authorities entered the slums and three exchanges of gunfire were heard. Reports suggest the gunfire was between drug gang members and officers. According to O Globo newspaper, Tuesday night's violence resulted in the death of a 30-year-old man, who was shot in the head, and a 12-year-old boy was shot and wounded. There is no news on who fired the shots and authorities have yet to confirm the reports.
The slums of Brazil have notoriously been controlled by drug gangs for decades and in 2008, the government began a program to drive gangs out of the slums. An estimated 37 units have been created to monitor the slums, which house 1.5 million people, there have been long been reports of rough tactics by authorities. The measure was taken ahead of Rio hosting two major international events: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
While the Brazilian government is taking proactive steps to make the country safer -- officials doled out $900 million from infrastructure to public safety in December -- the verdict will not be out until the events take place. The nation is, unfortunately, making headlines for all the wrong reasons when it comes to violence and safety. Last year, an American woman was assaulted and gang-raped in a van from a tourist-friendly neighborhood in Brazil and Sao Paulo, one of the most popular cities in Brazil, had a record year in murders in 2012.