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Brazil moves to pacify Rio slums ahead of papal visit


Rio de Janeiro, Apr 29 (EFE).- More than 400 police were deployed Monday in three shantytowns on the slopes of Corcovado two months before Pope Francis is due to visit Brazil, authorities in Rio de Janeiro said.

The officers entered the three slums before dawn and needed only 30 minutes to establish control without firing a shot, Rio state police commanders said.

The Cerro-Cora, Guararapes and Vila Candido shantytowns, or "favelas," are home to some 3,000 people and are near the station for trains that climb the Corcovado peak to the Christ the Redeemer statue that looms over Rio de Janeiro.

Pope Francis will take part in the World Youth Day event in Rio de Janeiro on July 23-28. Though his agenda has not been made public, press accounts indicate that he could make a visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue.

The Rio state government said that the occupation of the slums was planned as part of the pacification policy begun in 2008 to expel the drug-trafficking gangs that controlled them.

That policy has permitted the installation of permanent police posts as well as health and educational services in numerous "favelas" once completely dominated by gunmen.

With Monday's police operation, the state government considers practically "pacified" all the shantytowns on the city's south side where most of the hotels and tourist attractions are located.

The pacification policy aims at occupying all of Rio de Janeiro's shantytowns by 2016, when the city will host the Summer Olympics.