Despite differences, all UPP operations have 4 key phases:
1) Tactical intervention: This phase is marked by the arrival of the BPChq (Batalhão de Polícia de Choque-Battalion of Shock Polie), BOPE (Batalhão de Operacões Policiais Especiais (Special Police Operations Battalion), special forces of the State of Rio de Janeiro Military Police made famous in the Elite Squad movies, and on occasion by national armed forces to the favela, often referred to by residents as an invasion.
2) Stabilization: This phase is also carried out by the BOPE and other special units that target arms and drug traffickers in order to regain territory within the favelas, allowing for a more permanent police force to move in during the next phase.
3) Implementation: Police officers trained in proximity policing and the UPP arrive for long term operations. UPP Social (recently rebranded as Rio+Social), a multidisciplinary project implemented by the Municipality of Rio and the Instituto Pereira Passos think tank and funded by UN-Habitat, establishes social programming and public services.
4) Monitoring and evaluation: UPP Social expands social services while the Institute of Public Safety monitors the UPP.
Some have argued that the earlier favela pacifications were and continue to be more successful because they had more resources given their proximity to the upper-class and tourist neighborhoods of Rio’s South Zone (Copacabana, Ipanema, Botafogo, etc.). Crime and homicide rates in many of the UPP favelas have gone down. However, the size, location, and power dynamics of favela are also important. More recent UPPs have moved into “complexes”, which are actually comprised of many favelas, often controlled by warring armed factions. The Military Police began operations in the Maré Complex in April of 2014 prior to the World Cup (Maré is near the famed Maracanã Stadium), yet due to the violence in the area it remains under occupation by national armed forces.
For such a unique UPP process, the panel had very generic things to say: garbage was now being collected more regularly, presents were donated at Christmas. Though co-workers attest to the fact that Mangueirinha used to be much more violent, with frequent gunfights between the police and gangs, Duque de Caxias is still one of the most violent municipalities in the State of Rio as many gangs from the urban center push toward the suburbs. The panel seemed open to the criticisms launched by those in the audience, such as the lack of bus routes, schools and other public services, and the captain expressed a general lack of support from many local public actors.
The elephant in the room is clearly the sustainability of these UPPs. After a year (the Mangueirinha UPP threw an anniversary party) the meeting revealed that the process lacks ties to the local community. As the program expands, the Municipal Government of Rio expects more than 40 by the end of 2016, many fear that it will revert back to old tactics of repression and increased militarization. There is also the cynical view that the UPP have mostly been an urban occupation veiled by propaganda in the run up to the mega-events of the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. Long term progress will require open dialogue between the communities and the UPP, and a revitalization of democratic processes so that UPP social projects genuinely reflect the needs of the community.