A resident of Rio's Vidigial shantytown burns a J, March 2012 (via Rafael Fabrés)
Residents of Rio de Janeiro's famed favelas may be taking efforts to formally map the sprawling shantytowns into their own hands, but when it comes to cleaning up and ridding the slums of a deep-rooted crime culture and the influence of drug gangs, Brazilian law enforcement is cracking down doubletime.
Or at least it's trying to. Faced with global audiences descending upon Rio, who'll play host to both the 2014 World Soccer Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games, special police units are patrolling favelas to help broker peace being warring drug traffickers and "to help pave the way for improved local services such as better electricity grids, regular garbage collection and improved education opportunities," as Wired reports.
It's called "pacification." Raphael Fabrés, a Spanish photographer, has been covering the slum sweeps over the past year, embedding with Pacification Police Units (UPP) and living in favelas for months at a time to get the view from the street of all the hope, promise and doubt over what's proving to be far more than a simple beautification campaign.
“My goal is not to answer the question of whether it’s bad or good,” Fabrés tells Wired. “But I will say [the process] is definitely not black and white. It’s gray."
Pacification has been around since 2008. To hear Fabrés tell it, the program is three-pronged. Elite military troops first confront drug dealers, who typically make no bones about slinging product and brandishing weapons right out in the open. Riot police take over once the drug units are through, and will patrol a given favela for roughly a week, at which point community police groups are established. The 30-year-old says he's seen the quick positive effects of pacification, but whether the program will result in long-term culture shifts is not yet clear.
"It’s impossible to deny the positive part of the process and a lot of people are happy because they feel more secure,” Fabrés says. “But there has also been a lot of collateral damage.
The series is a work in progress, but is already worth a long look.
Image via Rafael Fabrés
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org. @thebanderson