Rio Nabs 63 Cops In Corruption Crackdown

By McCarton Ackerman 12/05/12

Dozens of officers whose duty is to clean up the city are themselves charged with drug trafficking and kidnapping.

Arrested officers arrive at police headquarters.
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Normally, crackdowns in Rio involve cops targeting the most drug-ridden and gang-infested areas of the Brazilian city, particularly its "crackolandia" slums. This time, the target was the city's notoriously violent and corrupt police force. As part of ongoing efforts to clean up Rio before it hosts the 2014 soccer World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, investigators have arrested 63 police officers and 11 (other) drug traffickers. This followed a year-long bribery probe known as "Operation Purification," and resulted in drug trafficking, corruption and kidnapping charges against the cops. Drug dealers in the slums north of central Rio allegedly paid bribes to police officers so they could operate without interference. "It's important that we cut into our own flesh so the institution can earn legitimacy," says Mariano Beltrame, Rio's state security secretary. The commander of the police battalion in which the arrested officers were deployed has been fired. Because of their relatively low salaries, Rio's cops reputedly often make extra by turning to crime. They also run infamous "militias" that control vast swaths of the state, engaging in illegal activities ranging from extortion to murder to unlicensed public transport. International Olympic Committee officials warned Rio yesterday that "time is ticking." 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.