Starting in 2008, the Brazilian government began commissioning nearly forty police pacification units (UPP) in over two-hundred of Rio de Janeiro’s shantytowns, known as favelas. This pacification project aimed to maintain security in territories after Rio’s special police unit (BOPE) cleared the communities of gang leaders and drug traffickers who, for decades, controlled the favelas and inspired their violent reputations.
The city of Rio de Janeiro is home to 6 million people with approximately 1.5 million residents living in favelas. These residential communities, named after the favela trees native to the region, are commonly misunderstood by outsiders. Although 32% of favela residents belong to the lower-class, a 2013 study found that 85% of people residing in favelas like where they live. Some favelas have high crime rates, but many are high-functioning, self-governing communities.
Brazil is the largest country in South America with resources comparable to the continental United States as well as vast amounts of land for agricultural development. At the time of this campaign, two-thirds of the population went hungry and were without work. 48% of the arable land was controlled by 1% of the population for large-scale agricultural enterprises. In 1964, there was a military coup that resulted in a twenty-one year military dictatorship and small farmers were pushed off their land, which was taken by the government.