The Telegraph
Sunday , April 13 , 2014
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Police clash with Rio squatters

Rio de Janeiro, April 12: Violent clashes broke out yesterday between police officers and squatters here when the authorities dislodged thousands of families from a newly formed favela, or slum, in a complex of abandoned commercial buildings, focusing attention on the rising tension over surging rents and housing shortages.

Just two months before Brazil is to host the World Cup soccer tournament in Rio de Janeiro and other cities, police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the squatters at a decaying property in the city’s gritty northern zone owned by Oi, one of the largest telecommunications companies in Brazil.

The squatters fought back by pelting the police with rocks, tossing firebombs and setting buses and police vehicles on fire. Even when officers managed to assert control over the settlement after hours of clashes, the protesters turned to looting nearby banks and a supermarket.

One of the squatters, Nicole Evangelista, 22, said she had put down stakes at the complex just days ago. In a stunning example of how favelas coalesce in Rio, thousands of people had moved to the site this month, coordinating their moves over social media, building wooden shacks and calling their community the Telerj Favela, a nod to the state phone company that used to own the property.

“Five thousand people moved here because they wanted their own home,” said Evangelista, who is unemployed and came to the settlement from Mandela, another favela in Rio. “But this morning police got here when I was still sleeping,” she said. “An officer told me he was going to fill my head with bullets.”

No deaths were reported in the clashes, but as many as 20 people were injured, including several police officers, according to local media reports. Photographs on the G1 news website showed children suffering from tear gas inhalation. At least 26 people were detained by the police in connection with the clashes and subsequent looting.

Fires from the clashes sent up billows of smoke that could be seen across Rio. Police units also made forays into Jacarezinho and Rato Molhado, two favelas adjacent to the newer squatter settlement.