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[April 12, 2014]
Rio de Janeiro squatters clash with police [MaltaToday]
(MaltaToday Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A woman is detained during protests near the area recently occupied by squatters in Rio de Janeiro A huge police operation to evict hundreds of families from abandoned buildings in Rio de Janeiro has ended with violent clashes and some injuries.
More than 1,500 police officers had arrived at dawn to evict nearly 5,000 people from the site, belonging to a telecommunication company.
Some families left peacefully, but clashes began when others resisted.
Groups of squatters threw rocks at police who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
Hundreds of children were among the crowds.
Vehicles were set on fire and supermarkets were looted.
The incident was the latest sign of simmering tension between security forces and lower-income residents of Rio, despite efforts by Brazil's top tourist destination to improve its image as it prepares to host soccer's World Cup in June and the Summer Olympics in 2016.
Community police forces in several favelas, or slums, have been attacked in recent months as criminals tried to take back lost territory, while Rio de Janeiro state had 4,761 murders last year, up 17% from 2012.
Last Saturday, the federal government sent 2,500 soldiers and marines to occupy the streets of Complexo da Maré, the city's most populous cluster of favelas, through the end of the World Cup.
The Rio municipal authorities insisted that help had been offered to the homeless families.
"Teams of social workers were on site, but only 177 squatters accepted the support," the local government was quoted as saying by the Globo news portal.
"The city provided trucks, buses and machinery so that the work of clearing the ground and evicting the people could happen in an orderly manner," it said in a statement.
The police said the operation went as planned and had followed standard procedures.
The families began occupying the abandoned plot in northern Rio 10 days ago, moving in from the city's favelas or shanty towns.
The site was already being called Rio's newest favela.
Owned by a telecommunications company, the buildings are not far from one of the venues for the 2016 Olympic Games, which will take place in Rio.
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