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Brazzil - Crime - April 2004

War of Drug Lords Over Rio's Favela

Rocinha favela has been on alert since February when a former
drug lord escaped from prison. It was widely publicised that
Dudu would try to seize control from Rocinha's current boss, Lulu.
Dudu and his men tried to do just that. Three people ended up
killed, but drug lord was not able to re-take control of the favela.

Tom Phillips

The long awaited invasion of Rio's largest favela by rival drug traffickers finally happened, leaving at least three dead. In the early hours of Good Friday a group of 30 armed men tried to enter Rocinha from the surrounding forest.

In the shootout that followed two residents were killed by stray bullets: 27-year-old Welington da Silva and 24-year-old Fabiana dos Santos Oliveira. Another seven locals were taken to a nearby hospital, two seriously injured.

"This is exactly what we were trying to avoid," said police commander Renato Hottz. "Unfortunately we didn't achieve the right effect."

The favela has been on alert since February when a former drug lord escaped from prison. At the time it was widely publicised that Eduíno Eustáquio de Araújo—also known as Dudu—would try to seize control from Rocinha's current boss, 23-year-old Luciano Barbosa da Silva, or Lulu.

"Their objective is to get in and kill all of their rivals," added Hottz, of Dudu's rival faction within the Comando Vermelho (Red Command).

Rocinha is the principal point of drug trafficking in the city. According to police, the trade generates some R$ 10 million (US$ 3.3 million) each week.

A woman was also killed on a nearby main road when traffickers from Vidigal tried to steal her car for use in the invasion. 38-year-old Telma Veloso Pinto was driving home with her son and nephew when she saw the so-called 'false blitz'. The traffickers opened fire when she didn't stop, killing her and wounding her 16-year-old son in the leg.

However, the second attempted invasion in a week failed, and police arrested five suspected traffickers. An extra 380 police are now occupying the two communities. Despite this violence broke out again on Friday evening. According to early reports one police officer was killed in a shootout with traffickers.

Rio's mayor, Cesar Maia, blamed the escalating violence on state security minister, and aspiring president, Anthony Garotinho.

"Every day it becomes clearer that the security department is losing more than a few battles: it is losing the war," he told O Dia newspaper.

"Garotinho has put on several performances: operation asphyxiate, [police] occupation, [making] contact with community leaders, but the facts show that none of this is anything more than theatrics."

Since rumours of an invasion surfaced in February, the community has been relatively quiet. Tour guides, who at the time avoided parts of the favela, had returned to their usual programs.

"It seems to have quietened down," the boss of Favela Tour, Marcelo Armstrong, told Brazzil on Wednesday in Rocinha. "I hope that it has anyway."

Less than forty-eight hours later the calm had been replaced by uncertainty. Three people, all unconnected with tráfico, lay dead.

Tom Phillips is a British journalist living in Rio de Janeiro. He writes for a variety of publications on politics and current affairs, as well as various aspects of the cultura brasileira. Tom can be reached on

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