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Rio's slum faces challenges after police pacification

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
November 15, 2011 -- Updated 1139 GMT (1939 HKT)
  • A door-to-door search follows a raid to take control of a Brazilian favela, or shantytown
  • "It's 100% better. It's better than normal," a food vendor says
  • Rio de Janeiro is trying to crack down on crime before the 2014 World Cup

Rio de Janeiro (CNN) -- Rio de Janeiro's special forces moved quickly and didn't stop to chat Monday as they peered in windows and knocked on doors in Rocinha, the city's biggest shantytown.

In a predawn raid the day before, 3,000 troops seized control of the hilltop favela, wresting from the hands of drug traffickers. They declared victory in just two hours, without firing a single shot.

"Today a lot of the drug dealers are gone," said Luis Machado, one of the officers in charge of the door-to-door searches. "Others are hidden. And it's now that we're going to find them and the weapons."

The massive operation was part of efforts secure Rio de Janeiro and eliminate bloody drug gangs ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the Olympic Games two years later.

For many of Rocinha's 100,000 residents, it was business as usual on Monday.

Food stalls displayed strings of garlic and onions while motorcycle taxis zipped up and down the winding roads.

"Thank god it's over," said Giovani, a food vendor. "It's 100% better. It's better than normal."

Police raid notorious Rio shantytown
Rio police storm city's largest slum

Rocinha's top drug trafficker, Antonio Francisco Bomfim, known as Nem, was captured by police last week, days before the invasion.

According to residents, a three-story house overlooking the shantytown and beachside condominiums below had been his home until his arrest.

Inside, all appliances and even bathroom fixtures had been ripped out, but the signs of luxury are evident, including a small pool and private gym. An empty bottle of Black Label whiskey sits on the glass bar.

Still, in many ways, the hard work has only just begun.

Mountains of trash line the streets, and tangled masses of electrical wires dangle over houses.

"Before this was called a favela because it was full of criminals," said Juliete, an 18-year-old physical trainer. "Now things have to be done to call it a neighborhood. We need running water, proper sewage and things for young people to do."

Raimundo Cesario, who has lived in Rocinha for 40 years, agreed.

"The system trapped young people in a life of crime. But it's also true that they helped people when they needed it," he said. "We'll have to see if things are better or worse under the police."

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