At least three people were killed Monday during a police raid at a Rio de Janeiro favela when law enforcement officers clashed with drug traffickers in the northern area of Brazil's former capital city where dozens of schools were closed. An injured suspect was also hospitalized, it was reported.
Violence broke out when armored vehicles from the Military Police's Shock Battalion entered communities in Complexo da Maré to prevent a confrontation between two drug gangs, according to local police sources.
Education authorities reported some 35 schools had been closed for the day while stores in Complexo da Maré had lowered their shutters. The Comando Vermelho (CV - Red Command) criminal organization is said to have a strong presence in the area where some 130,000 people reside.
The police operation also disrupted traffic on the city's main thoroughfares, forcing passengers out of their cars and onto the ground to protect themselves from bullets.
The police raid began at dawn in the Maré favela which is located in an important communications junction connecting downtown Rio to the Galeão (Antonio Carlos Jobim) International Airport. International s the city with the international airport.
Brazilian TV showed police officers pointing rifles and running through stopped traffic as passengers hid behind cars and buses during the operation.
The police operation was undertaken six days ahead of the first round of Brazil's presidential elections.
According to press reports, criminal organizations controlling these areas might influence the outcome of next Sunday's voting. Paramilitary organizations largely influence the preferences of local residents when casting their votes through the so-called electoral corrals where only certain candidates are allowed to campaign.
Militias run entire neighborhoods and offer services such as cable TV, gas, Internet, or alternative transportation. Their prevalence is said to be above 57% of the territory of the city of Rio, according to a study released last week by the Federal Fluminense University (UFF).
Next Sunday Brazilians will also choose members of Congress and of the state legislative assemblies. It is at the more regional level where militias are more prevalent, although some of their candidates also aim at a seat in Brasilia. Jerônimo Guimarães Filho, better known as Jerominho, one of the city's most famous militiamen, was a councilman for years, served time in jail and this year wanted to run for federal deputy, but was assassinated in August.