NYT in Rio:
Years of hate and mistrust are thawing in some of Rio’s most violent slums. Pushed to alleviate security concerns before the city’s double-billing on the international stage — the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games — Rio officials have embarked on an ambitious plan to wrest control of the slums, or favelas, from ruthless drug gangs who ruled for years with big guns and abject terror.
The peace officers are central to that effort, flooding in after the military police clear the streets in gun battles that can last weeks. Their job is part traditional policing, part social work. They devote themselves to winning over residents scarred by decades of violence — some at the hands of the police. And the tips fed to them from those who support their efforts, officers say, help them keep the relative peace.
Pessimists say the Brazilian government forces will only keep up the effort long enough to keep the peace during the Olympics. But the strategy seems to be working—and should, perhaps, be exported to countries like Mexico, where the people can't decide which they hate worse: the narco-terrorists or the brutal, abuse-prone military.
For decades, City of God — whose brutal past was immortalized in a 2002 film — was one of the city’s most fearsome neighborhoods, so dangerous that even the police rarely dared to enter.
Those days seem long gone. Drug dealing remains, and in at least one area, outsiders can enter only with permission from local youths who patrol the streets.
Still, the men with the big guns are gone, or at least have been driven underground. And life is returning to the streets.
Children now play outside without fear of stray bullets. They skip rope and play table tennis with paddles made from floor tiles. Soccer matches, formerly violent affairs, have become more civil, with officers sometimes joining in the games.
Drugs don't ruin neighborhoods. People who fight over drugs ruin neighborhoods.