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Brazzil - Behavior - April 2004

Brazil: Crowd in Rio Buries Drug Lord

Over 200 people attended drug lord Lulu's funeral in Rio. Eight
local buses took Lulu's friends and admirers from Rocinha to
pay their final respects. There were violent scenes as
journalists tried to enter the cemetery. "If you print my photo,
you're dead," a girlfriend of Lulu screamed at photographers.

Tom Phillips

Brazzil Picture Luciano Barbosa da Silva—until Wednesday the drug lord in charge of Rio's largest favela—now shares a cemetery with bossa nova legend Tom Jobim. His plot, number 524, is another anonymous, concrete grave at the São João Batista cemetery in Botafogo.

Beneath lie palm bouquets and tributes: "Distance allows us to feel saudade (longing) but not to forget," reads one. "An homage from your friends and family," says another, both unsigned. Etched into the concrete—still wet after the burial—is the only hint of whose corpse is inside: "Luciano (Lulu) 524 CV."

According to reports, the 27-year-old was killed on Wednesday in a shootout with police in Rocinha. Rumours have since surfaced that the Comando Vermelho (CV, Red Command)—the gang to which he belonged—had a hand in his killing.

It emerged in February that a rival faction within the `CV'—led by Eduíno de Araújo or Dudu—would try to retake control of Rocinha's R$ 10 million (US$ 3.3 million) a week drug trade. Last Friday, an army led by Dudu tried unsuccessfully to invade the São Conrado favela.

In the days that followed, some 1,300 police occupied the community. On day six of the conflict Lulu—and another suspected trafficker, Ronaldo Araújo Silva—were killed, apparently by police. One police source in Rocinha warned the death could trigger further violence. Twelve lives have already been claimed by the conflict.

According to the source, a rival drug gang—The Terceiro Comando or Third Command—might now be able to take control of Rocinha. If successful, the group would then be likely to invade neighboring favela Vidigal, which was used as a base by Dudu.

"There are 2 options," he told Brazzil. "Either Dudu really will come back and take over and everything will go back to how it was before. Or Rocinha [under the Third Command] will attack Vidigal."

"If you worked for a newspaper and there was a difference of opinions with your boss you'd go and work for another paper. Similarly if the actual `Comando Vermelho' ordered the invasion of Rocinha then it's going to pass to the others—the Terceiro Comando. And they [the Terceiro Comando] are crazy for this to happen. Then they'll attack Vigidal."

Over 200 people attended da Silva's funeral in Rio. Eight local buses took Lulu's friends and admirers from Rocinha to pay their final respects. Large numbers of police—including shock troops—were also present, many carrying machine guns or rifles.

There were violent scenes as journalists tried to enter the cemetery. One reporter was injured when a rock was thrown from a first floor window, at the entrance to the cemetery's chapel. "We don't want this shit here," shouted one of Lulu's friends, wearing sunglasses and drinking beer. "If you print my photo, you're dead," a girlfriend screamed at photographers.

As the high attendance might suggest, Lulu enjoyed a good reputation with residents of Rocinha. Since he became the favela's `owner' in 1999, Rocinha has lived a period of relative calm. Yesterday, shops in the favela remained closed at the orders of traffickers. Some said it was a sign of respect from the community.

"Lulu had a sense of morality," said one resident, who wished not to be identified. "He respected everybody, and he didn't let the gang mess with residents, or attack or rob them. That's why he died."

Many residents fear the possible take over of the violent Dudu. "He's a nasty piece of work. One day he saw this tasty fourteen year-old girl, and picked her up and raped her. He doesn't have scruples. Lulu was different," one said.

According to one story, Dudu used to feed his enemies to a pet alligator. Many of those present at the burial chanted: "Dudu, you just wait for your hour to arrive."

Others were less sympathetic towards the dead traficante. "I want a picture of the view Lulu's going to have every night," joked one journalist at the graveside, which looks onto the world-famous Corcovado. "What shall we write on our tribute?" sniggered another.

But whilst Lulu has now found some kind of peace, Rocinha's future remains uncertain. "Rocinha's future is in the hands of God," Residents Association president, William de Oliveira, told one paper on Wednesday.

Another policeman told the press that "anything could happen." "I think that we'll have a better defined situation in the next ten days," he added.

The São João Batista cemetery is home to many of Brazil's rich and famous. Tom Jobim, Clara Nunes and Carmen Miranda are all buried here in tombs that cost up to R$ 160,000 (US$ 50,000). Alongside them lie many of Rio's notorious bandidos: including Marcinho VP, former drug lord of the nearby favela of Santa Marta.

"I've lost count of how many traffickers are buried here," said the graveyard guard Roberto Campos, showing Brazzil to Lulu's plot.

Perhaps not through coincidence Lulu's older brother—the trafficker Cassiano Barbosa da Silva, killed by police in 1988—is also buried here.

Outside Chapel 5, where Lulu's body was held before burial, a piece of graffiti captured the mood perfectly. "Família camicaze [sic]," it said. "Kamikaze family."

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 tominrio@yahoo.co.uk

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