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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Inside Rio's violent favelas
Residents flee police in the Alemao favela
Favela residents face frequent conflict between police and gangs
Brazil's government has pledged $1.7bn (850m) to improve conditions in Rio de Janeiro's huge shantytowns, or favelas, in an effort to beat organised crime.

More than one million people live in the city's sprawling slums. The BBC News website and BBCBrasil.com spoke to some of its inhabitants about life in the favelas and whether they think the government's proposals will improve their lives.


Leonardo (not his real name), 23, lives in the Complexo do Alemao slum, where street battles between traffickers and police killed 19 people last week.

Things are not getting better here, but I don't think they are getting worse.

Only now the press and the television make it sound much bigger. They sell violence to sell newspapers.

There were police operations here before last week and only our community newspaper reported them.

Map
The police enter the community and threaten people, but I don't see how you can enter the favela without shooting. Gangs are even better armed than the police, so police have to shoot.

But gangs enjoy community support because they improve people's lives. Drug trafficking brings money into the community. So there's no use in coming to the favela, killing a bunch of gang members and leaving.

The governments thinks it's smashing crime, but it's just smashing today's leaders. As soon as police leave, more traffickers come to power.

Governments come and go, but nobody does anything. There are no projects to urbanise the favela, or to improve water and sanitation.

They promise to enlarge roads and move people to safer areas, but nothing is done.

I know people I grew up with who are drug dealers. Since police give you no security against the gangs, you must stay neutral. I don't believe that the community supports trafficking, but no one wants to run the risk.

Ricardo (not his real name) lives in Rocinha, one of the biggest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, situated near the well-know tourist area of Copacabana.

We're all hostages of violence and the criminals who rule the favelas.

Violence is a topic of conversation everywhere, in bars and on the streets. It's impossible not to talk about it or fear it.

We see the news of violence in the Alemao favela and it makes people angry, because we know many of the people who die in the conflicts are reported as being criminals, but we know they are not.

A policeman patrols the Alemao slum
Police are often engaged in heavy gun battles in some of the slums
Police call them criminals but they are innocent people.

The government has said that after Alemao, they will come to Rocinha.

It makes us anxious about when they will come and invade our favela. Here the conflict will be worse than in Alemao, because the government is determined to fight the gangs, and there many different gangs here.

The police will launch operations here without warning. They will come with the Caveirao, an armoured vehicle they call the "pacifier".

Kids here don't fear the bogeyman, they fear the Caveirao. Police shoot at you without asking who you are.

We have heard about the measures promised by the government, including building better roads.

We think this is to give police easier access to the favela. Roads are too narrow for the Caveirao.

So, every improvement for us is also an improvement for them.

No one really believes that they will really develop infrastructure properly, even though the money has apparently already been made available.

Luana da Silva, 27, is a street artist who was born and lives in Rocinha. She says life has already improved in her area, partly due to the growing number of tourists attracted to the district in a bid to get a taste of the "real Brazil".

Luana da Silva
Luana sells art to the increasing number of tourists in Rocinha favela
This area has changed a lot over the years, mostly for the better.

We have everything we need now.

There have been improvements to the infrastructure with roads being built throughout the favela.

There's tourism here, here too. Thankfully there is not much violence at the moment.

There were lots of problems around 10 years ago, with drug gangs ruling the area, but it has calmed down a lot since.

There's been a lot of investment, which has created jobs, money, and made life much better than before.

There are still some problems with drug dealers and criminal gangs, however.

So hopefully the planned investment by the government can help change things even further.





SEE ALSO
Brazil launches slum reform drive
03 Jul 07 |  Americas
Police accused over Rio killings
29 Jun 07 |  Americas
War on Rio's drug gang slums
28 Jun 07 |  Americas
In pictures: Rio violence
28 Jun 07 |  In Pictures
Rio shanty town becomes tour spot
06 Nov 03 |  Americas



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