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Rio's favela residents protest police action during World Cup

by Dorian Merina | Take Two®

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A general view shows the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro prior to a Group B football match between Spain and Chile during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 18, 2014. YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

As Brazil's World Cup nears the midway point, attention moves to Rio de Janeiro. The city will host the all-important final game on July 13 at the historic Maracana Stadium.

Rio is also home to more than six million residents and some of the country's most densely-crowded favelas. That's the informal housing in Rio where the government has implemented a controversial policing program, called "pacification."

"The policy of pacification actually goes back to the military dictatorship of the 1970s," reporter Andalusia Knoll tells Take Two from Rio. "But more recently [it] was implemented in 2008 when the government decided it wanted to have more regular presence in these favela communities."

Knoll spoke with residents in Rio's Babilonia favela who organized a protest during one of Brazil's early games. One of them, a woman named Arlete Ludovice, criticized the priorities of the World Cup. Ludovice is president of Cahpéu Mangueira, the association of residents in Babilonia.

"Here people are dying in the communities," she said in Portuguese, noting casualties from clashes between police and residents. "The World Cup is not for everyone."

Forced evictions are expected to continue through the year and the police have said they will keep units in at least one favela, Mare, through the end of the World Cup, according to Amnesty International.

Felipe Francisco, a medical student, described what he said was police steering the protesters clear of the view of tourists during a rally last Friday.

"They tried to form a block around us because they didn’t want us to come here because of the tourists," said Francisco. "They were trying to do that -- they didn't want us to get here -- so that the tourists wouldn’t see the protest and what we have to say."

But Brazilian officials call the "pacification" program a necessary response to high crime and violence in the favelas. Rio's Secretary for Security Affairs Jose Mariano Beltrame says the police units are designed to have an ongoing role in the favelas rather than merely take part in periodic raids, reports Knoll.

Four in ten Brazilians say controversy from the World Cup, including police action, could hurt Brazil's image throughout the world, according to a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this month.

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