Rio slum violence breaks out ahead of Brazil World Cup
Death of professional dancer, said to be killed by police, sparks rioting in Rio de Janeiro
THE death of a dancer allegedly killed by police in a Rio de Janeiro slum near Copacabana beach has sparked violent protests in the city, just weeks before it plays host to the opening game of the 2014 World Cup.
The trouble began after angry residents demonstrated outside a police station, accusing officers of murdering professional dancer Douglas Rafael da Silva in the mistaken belief that he was a drug trafficker, reports the BBC.
The situation soon spiralled out of control, with protesters slashing tyres and setting cars alight. Streets in the Pavao-Pavaozinho neighbourhood were blocked with burning barricades, and bystanders had to take cover when a shootout broke out between riot police and a local gang.
The Pavao-Pavaozinho area is one of many deprived neighbourhoods in Rio involved in a police "pacification" initiative to tackle drug traffickers and regain control of the favelas prior to this summer's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
"Unfortunately, innocent people are having to pay for this war between the police and drug traffickers," Tony Teizera from the Copacabana Residents' Association told the BBC.
Residents say the dancer had been trying to take cover from a shootout when police discovered him and, believing him to be a drug dealer, beat him to death. Police told the AFP news agency that they believe the dancer may have died as a result of a fall.
As many as 2,000 people are killed by Brazilian police each year, according to Amnesty International. The circumstances surrounding the dancer's death are still being investigated.