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The gangs stepped up curfew enforcement following the first case of the virus reported in Cidade de Deus (City of God) – the famous favela depicted in the 2002 film of the same name.
Favelas in Brazil’s capital and other cities have been historically neglected by the government. In some areas it is not uncommon for residents to go weeks without running water. Some residents say the gangs' intervention in stopping a potential outbreak speaks to the severity of the crisis.
“The (drug) traffickers are doing this because the government is absent. The authorities are blind to us,” one resident told the Guardian.
In one video circulating on social media, members of the Red Command gang could be seen with a loudspeaker ordering residents to remain indoors after 8 p.m. and that anyone violating these rules “will be punished.”
Gangs in other favelas have taken similar actions to enforce safety precautions against the coronavirus.
In Rocinha, one of the largest favelas in Brazil, gang members told its residents they can only travel in groups of two and must stay inside after 8:30 p.m., the Guardian reported.
In Santa Marta, a favela near Rio De Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, drug traffickers have been giving residents soap and place signs up that read: “Please wash your hands before entering the favela.”
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized for his dismissal of the COVID-19 pandemic, reactions to which he has derided as “hysteria.” For at least five nights, protesters around the country have banged their pots and pans on their balconies as a sign of protest against their president’s response.
As of Wednesday, Brazil has 2,274 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 47 deaths.
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.