Rio de Janeiro

Marksmen in place before pope's Rio favela visit

Varginha known as 'Gaza Strip' for drug violence

Marksmen in place before pope's Rio favela visit

Rio de Janeiro, July 25 - Marksmen have begun setting up in and around the infamous Manguinhos favela in Rio de Janeiro ahead of Pope Francis' visit Thursday. Many of the inhabitants of the shanty town were asked not to rent out available apartments along the street where Francis, in Brazil for his first international trip as pontiff, will make his entrance. In addition to setting up inside vacant dwellings, police have chopped down a number of trees to improve visibility inside the Varginha, the specific neighborhood the world's first Latin American pontiff will visit. Helicopters are in place to circle the area while the Argentine native is there to enter one of six homes vetted in advance. Known for outbreaks of violence between rival drug gangs, Varginha is referred to locally as the "Gaza Strip". It was recently "pacified" by heavily armed police who flooded the area to disperse and deter crime. The pope arrived Monday in Brazil for the week-long World Youth Day events.

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