UK & World News

  • 12 April 2014, 12:24

World Cup: Riots As Favela Cleared In Rio

Heavily-armed police have stormed a favela in Rio de Janeiro to oust squatters who are occupying buildings just two months before the the World Cup.

At least seven people were injured as officers dragged them from an abandoned building and shacks surrounding it just steps from Rio's iconic Maracana stadium - the venue for the tournament's final.

Some residents fought with police, throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails and setting parts of the building and vehicles on fire.

Violent protests later erupted in surrounding neighbourhoods where a police car, buses and trucks were torched, and banks and supermarkets looted.

It comes after Brazil stepped up security efforts in the city where tens of thousands of football fans will watch seven matches.

In the last few weeks, thousands of government police and troops have been sent into the favelas - sprawling slums that have grown up on Rio's fringes.

Authorities in Brazil have been determined to bring down the city's high crime rate ahead of the football competition but there has been criticism of their heavy-handed approach.

The latest operation started at dawn on Friday when more than 1,600 police arrived at the building brandishing an eviction order from the its owner, a telephone company.

Cranes and tractors were used to demolish wooden huts built around the building - many still full of belongings residents had no time to pack.

Hundreds of desperate and angry residents and neighbours poured into the street protesting about the loss of their homes.

Scuffles broke out and dozens of furious youths threw stones and bottles at police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Most of the residents dispersed quickly, but about a hundred protesters resisted police orders to leave the building for several hours.

Brazilian newspaper O Globo also reported that suspected drug traffickers from neighbouring favelas fired guns at the police.

Media reports said 19 had been injured, of whom 12 were police.

In all, police said 22 people were arrested, including 10 who did not live in the favela but participated in the later destruction.

The shantytown emerged on March 31 when about 5,000 people who were homeless or tired of paying high rents in other slums decided to commandeer the building, which had been empty for years.