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1,500 residents in Rio de Janeiro participate in shantytown peace race

Brazilian police officers, celebrities joined the Challenge for Peace race.

Clone of Rio statue 2011 10 25Enlarge
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)

1,500 residents in Rio de Janeiro ran through a famous shantytown on Sunday in the name of peace, according to the BBC.

Agence France Presse reported Brazilian police officers, celebrities and former drug gang members took part in the 3 mile, or 5km, run that retraced the escape route used by narcotraffickers during the army assault in November 2010.

"This race lifts the self-esteem of a community that used to live amid a great deal of violence," AfroReggae founder Luiz Fernando told AFP.

The race winner, Valerio de Souza told the BBC he will use his prize money, some $2,500, to help his family.

More from GlobalPost: Brazil: Rio shuts makeshift police-run jails

"This route marked the history of the military police's Special Operations Battalion. Here there were many firefights with the narcotraffickers. To run today along this path without a weapon is very significant," 44-year-old sergeant Sergio Dantas told AFP. "Before, Vila Cruzeiro was lawless land."

This is the third time the race has taken place in the Complexo do Alemao, a vast area of interconnected slums previously ruled by gangs.

Security is important priority for Brazil - it will next host the 2014 football World Cup, followed by the 2016 Olympics.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/brazil/120527/1500-residents-rio-de-janeiro-participate-shantytown-pe