Rio de Janeiro Squatters Clash With Police

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Fires and Fighting Erupt as Officers Evict Thousands From Shantytown.

Police evicted thousands of people Friday from a shantytown that sprouted up two weeks ago here, prompting angry reactions from squatters, who set fire to vehicles and hurled stones at officers.

Images on the local Globo news network showed multiple plumes of smoke rising from burning buses, cars, trucks and at least one building on the streets of Engenho Novo, a poor neighborhood in northern Rio.

Police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and tear gas as they faced off with the evicted squatters, and about two dozen people on both sides of the conflict suffered minor injuries, officials said. Police made more than 20 arrests.

The incident was the latest sign of simmering tension between security forces and lower-income residents of Rio, despite efforts by Brazil’s top tourist destination to improve its image as it prepares to host soccer’s World Cup in June and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

Community police forces in several favelas, or slums, have been attacked in recent months as criminals tried to take back lost territory, while Rio de Janeiro state had 4,761 murders last year, up 17% from 2012.

Last Saturday, the federal government sent 2,500 soldiers and marines to occupy the streets of Complexo da Maré, the city’s most populous cluster of favelas, through the end of the World Cup.

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