Drug traffickers set bus on fire in Rio
Three suspected drug traffickers were arrested in Rio de Janeiro on charges that they burned a bus in the tourist district of Copacabana, apparently in reprisal for the police occupation of the “favela,” or shantytown, in which they live, Brazilian police said.
Officers arrested three men Tuesday who were carrying fuel and two grenades on suspicion of having set the bus ablaze, police Col. Marcus Jardim said.
The vehicle was parked and did not have any passengers on board, and the driver was relaxing in a nearby bar, and consequently nobody was injured, or worse, in the attack.
Witnesses said they saw that the man who actually set the blaze suffered burns on one foot, other police spokesmen told the G1 online news Web site.
The suspects burned the bus in apparent reprisal for the police occupation this week of Pavao-Pavaozinho, a slum in Copacabana, a move authorities made within the framework of the “pacification” policy being undertaken in marginal neighborhoods dominated by drug trafficking bands, police said.
The policy of sending the police permanently into Rio’s favelas has allowed the authorities to impose order in five of the city’s neighborhoods that were being dominated by drug traffickers.
A wave of drug-related violence left at least 40 people dead in Rio in October.
Rio de Janeiro is plagued by constant clashes involving organized crime groups, the security forces and paramilitaries over control of the city’s favelas.
In late 2006, drug gangs in Rio launched coordinated pre-dawn attacks on buses and police stations they said were in retaliation for death squad operations in scores of slums.
Leaflets strewn at the scenes of the attacks, which left more than a score dead, accused former Rio Gov. Rosinha Garotinho of fostering the formation of the death squads.
In one of most heinous incidents, six people were burned to death when gunmen boarded a bus, robbed the passengers and then set fire to the vehicle.