08 February 2012
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A boy cools down, in the heat of the day.
The favelas (slum quarters) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—many just a street away from rich neighborhoods—have for decades been no-go areas ruled by drug lords and vigilante militia.
With the football World Cup coming to Rio in 2014, and the Olympics in 2016, authorities have made a concerted effort to clean up the favelas. The Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (‘Pacifying Police Unit’, or UPP) was set up in 2009 to see this through.
The approach is twofold. The first stage, UPP Policing, sees elite forces storming a favela and establishing a permanent police presence there. Then UPP Social is supposed to follow up with an improvement of services and infrastructure, such as in education and electricity supply.
The initiative has met with partial success. Police units have been established—often for the very first time—in a number of communities, with positive results. But critics say that the UPP has concentrated on favelas closest to rich areas, that the social follow-up has not been effective, and that a true tackling of the problems in favelas needs a broader approach to the reduction of poverty.