Soldiers and police crouching behind armored vehicles trained their rifles on dozens of entrances to a sprawling slum Saturday, preparing to invade and try to push drug gangs out an area long considered the most dangerous in Rio de Janeiro, a city set to host the 2016 Olympics.
Before heading into what would certainly be a pitched fight, however, police said they were offering the traffickers one last chance to turn themselves in.
A delicate calm held after a night that saw intense exchanges of gunfire, filling the dark sky with bright streaks as bullets whizzed into and out of the Alemao slum complex — an area near the highway to the international airport that is known locally as the "Gaza Strip."
Soldiers in camouflage, black-clad police from elite units and regular police held their ground at the entrances to the complex, a grouping of a dozen slums that climb up gentle slopes where more than 85,000 people live, according to the Brazilian government.
Authorities say the gangs are protesting against a 2-year-old police campaign that has pushed the criminals out of slums where they have long ruled with impunity. It's an effort to secure Rio before the city hosts the finals of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.