It's one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and also one of the most dangerous. In the slums of Rio de Janeiro violent drug gangs operate with impunity, with no regard for human life. Now after decades of chaos, Brazilian authorities are attempting to restore order. They're using military-like force and a new approach to policing. This bold offensive is referred to as "pacification", but will it work, and can it work in time?
Rio is racing against the clock as both the World Cup and the Olympics come to town. With the games fast approaching we'll travel deep inside in some of Rio's 600 favelas, and we'll see what authorities are up against. We'll see a heart of a crack den and the men who rule with an iron fist. The battle for Rio is on, as the filmmakers take you inside the city of God, guns and gangs.
Rio de Janeiro is one of the most picturesque cities on Earth and it's easy to see why it's known as "Cidade Maravilhosa" - the Marvelous City. Rio arguably has more postcard views than most other cities combined. But Rio de Janeiro is also a city plagued by gross economic disparity. Rio is home to 600 slums, or favelas as they're known in Brazil. These shanty towns are often built right alongside the city's wealthiest neighborhoods.
One in five of the city's residents live in a favela, and many will tell you they feel like second class citizens. The government has little or no control over the slums of Rio, and over the decades, as officials look the other way, the favelas became a haven for drug traffickers. In a favela, it's now a commonplace for the media to capture images of teenagers wielding assault rifles, guarding the slums from outsiders and murdering anyone who gets in their way.
Rio security forces have on occasion led operations against the traffickers, but there's never been a concerted effort to dismantle their operations entirely... until now. Securing Rio de Janeiro has never been more important. In 2014 Brazil will host the World Cup and two years later the Olympics. The eyes of the world will be on Rio like never before.
Millions of tourists are already booking their tickets, and in response, the Brazilian government is pouring unprecedented resources into a new public security policy called "pacification." The mission over the next two years is to take back control of forty of Rio's biggest and most dangerous favelas, crashing once and for all the drug traffickers who run the streets there for far too long.
But bringing security to Rio and its favelas is dangerous business. It would be fair to say that Rio de Janeiro's drug traffickers are not eager to be "pacified." The "pacification" operation is not unlike the US military surge in Iraq. The idea here is to target areas where law enforcement has traditionally been nonexistent and sweep in with an overwhelming show of force.