By Duncan Mackay

Police_raid_Maracana_Stadium_area_June_19_2011June 19 - Brazilian Police have today raided another favela dominated by drug trafficking gangs as part of their programme to help make areas close to the Maracana Stadium safer before Rio de Janeiro hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

Hundreds of police officers and troops invaded the Mangueira favela, backed by helicopters and several armoured vehicles.

The operation was the final link in a "security perimeter" authorities have set up around the Maracana Stadium, which is due to play host to the World Cup final and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics.

Rio State public security director Jose Beltrame said in a televised news conference that police had taken control of the slum without exchange of gunfire after the drug guns had fled in advance of the operation. 

Seventeen other shantytowns have already been pacified by security forces taking over the city's poor communities.

But Mangueira, which is home to an estimated one million people, is the most symbolic favela so far to be occupied by the so-called "pacification forces".

Famed for producing legendary samba artists such as Cartola, Nelson Cavaquinho and Carlos Cachaça, Mangueira is also home to the city's best-known samba school, the Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Mangueira.

The peaceful operation is in stark contrast to what happened in Rio lat November, when at least 35 people died in violence set off after drug gangs lashed out at the increased police presence in the crime-ridden slums.

That unrest led to a massive sweep of the Alemao favela complex that involved about 2,600 police and soldiers.

Today's operation, which culminated with the raising of a Brazilian flag, was conducted by about 750 military police personnel.

Authorities announced that they'd seized 32 vehicles and 300 packs of marijuana.

To date, more than 20 of Rio's 1,000 slums have been cleared of criminal gangs.

It is estimated that around 20 per cent of Rio's six million inhabitants live in favelas.

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