“Hell” de Janeiro! Residents complain about Armed Forces stops in the Rocinha favela: Shocking images from Rio’s slums show daily life under occupation

militares fazem reconhecimento na comunidade da rocinha
militares fazem reconhecimento na comunidade da rocinha

Militares fazem reconhecimento na comunidade da Rocinha

Note from BW of Brazil: If a picture is worth a thousand words, about 9,000 words of shocking photos give you a brief introduction to life under military occupation. This isn’t my first photographic foray into armed forces keeping Rio’s favelas on lock, but every now and then I think it’s necessary to show what residents who don’t live in ritzy neighborhoods such as Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon. These photos represent the Rio government’s “Guerra às drogas”, or ‘war on drugs’.


Mind you, I haven’t covered death by stray bullet in Rio’s slums for some time because it’s simply too depressing. But as I’ve written before, the numbers are such that could do a two or three posts a day on an entirely separate blog just to cover how many lives have been taken in this war.

PM fez operação na comunidade da Rocinha na manhã desta sexta
Rocinha residents duck to avoid shots as shootout between police and drug traffickers rages on

Another thing to keep in mind is that, while Brazil’s media constantly keeps people in fear of the very real drug traffickers in these favelas, what the media doesn’t tell you is that participants in the sale of drugs are less than one percent (see note one). So while you’re viewing these photos, just imagine if you were to witness these scenes, taken from recent operations in the Jacarezinho and Rocinha favelas. 

Uma guerra sem fim. 28 de agosto de 2017
Image from August 28, 2017

Residents complain about Armed Forces stops in Rocinha

The community remains occupied; the residents complain of excessive frisking and even of verbal and physical aggression

operation in Rocinha
Operation in Rocinha

The work of the Armed Forces in Rocinha, supporting the operations of the Civil and Military police, is interfering in the routine of the residents, who complain of the excess of pat downs and even of verbal and physical aggression. Saturday (September 23), the community remained occupied.

‘Não há vida no Jacarezinho nesse momento_- 22.8.2017
Image taken during an operation in Jacarezinho in August

“Being searched is not the problem. The worst is the esculacho [disrespect]. I got it twice today. I got kicks in the shin. If I could, I would retaliate,” a young man complained in the lower part of the community, next to a sports court.

Com Tanques, Granadas e Armas, a Polícia Trava Guerra Contra os Mais Pobres do Rio de Janeiro
A war on the war in Rio de Janeiro’s poor communities

Another resident, who had just been searched by men of the Polícia do Exército (PE or Army Police), was outraged: “I have nothing to do with it,” he protested, saying it was already the second pat down of the day.

Operação policial na Favela da Rocinha, no Rio de Janeiro, em 22.09
Rocinha, in Rio de Janeiro

In the same place, next to the sports court, which is at the exit of the Zuzu Angel Tunnel, a fight between two men who drank in a bar was dispersed by PE men using pepper gas. But the gas spread in the wind and hit a group of women and children, including two six-month-old and four-month-old babies.

Operações das Forças Armadas ...
A Caveirão tank rolls through the slums of Rio

“It was horrible. I vomited and my baby’s face is all red,” complained one of the mothers.

The PE sergeant who fired the gas explained that he only used proportional force and that the gas alternative is better than the physical contact. “If we intervene, one of the men can grab our weapons. Unfortunately, the wind was not favorable,” explained the sergeant.

23.set.2017 - Movimentação na favela da Rocinha, zona sul do Rio - Copy
September 2017 in Rocinha

Caveirão runs over a motorcycle

Elsewhere in the community, known as Largo do Boiadeiro, an armored military police tank (PM), known as Caveirão, ran over a motorcycle taxi driver’s taxi. “The damage is about from R$3 thousand. I depend on this work to support my family,” complained Henrique Gonçalves de Araújo.

Caveirão em ação
A caveirão in action in Rio’s slums

The Military Command of the East (CML) was searched, but until the publication of this matter had not issued a statement on the residents’ complaint. The PM (Military Police) was also sought, but has not yet commented on the issue of the bike.

Source: Vargas, João H. Costa. (2005). Apartheid brasileiro: raça e segregação residencial no Rio de Janeiro. Revista de Antropologia, 48 (1), 75-131. Master STI


  1. A 2005 study from the Jacarezinho community in Rio, for example, estimated that those involved in drug trafficking didn’t exceed 100 people. Considering that Jacarezinho has a population of more than 150 thousand people, the proportion of those involved with drugs is 0.07%. (Vargas 2005)
About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Wow! How truly insane. This is what’s considered normalcy for Black people the world over. Such a pitiful and sorry state we’re in. How truly unfortunate. As awful as the portrayals are, this photographer deserves recognition for the spectacle of these images. Kudos to webmaster of BWoB.

  2. Really! I cannot fathom the daily lives of most of the Rocinha favela. Again, a really great article on Brazil’s war on drugs.

  3. Man. I am so sorry for these children and mothers for what they are going through. It’s really sad to see BP suffere all over the world. This image isn’t much different than what we have only the size of the weapon. Hope we will see change in hearts of those sick ones.

  4. What is actually shocking in all of this, is how Brazil successfully convinced its own people this has nothing to do with race. Any other country that is not Brazil would see it easily, protest… easy demands.

    In Brazil most of the police enforcing the terror are themselves mixed blacks who would deny it point blank there is any racial meaning in their acts….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.