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Brazzil - Crime - January 2004
 

Brazil: Rocinha Shantytown Goes to War

In Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, the largest favela in South America,
teachers at local schools are advising pupils to stay indoors.
Traffickers have imposed a 10 pm curfew on the area, and all
vehicles arriving in Rocinha after this time are searched.
Tinted car windows have been banned by a drug lord.

Tom Phillips


In the week that City of God—a film depicting wars between rival drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro—received four Oscar nominations, a real life drama is being acted out in the city's largest favela.

This time, it's not Zé Pequeno or Mané Galinha—Cidade de Deus' semi-fictional traffickers—but Lulu and Dudu—rivals from the Comando Vermelho criminal faction, battling for control of Rocinha's drug trade.

Rumours of an imminent turf-war have been circulating in Rocinha since one of the area's old controllers escaped from prison two weeks ago. It's thought that Eduíno Eustáquio de Araújo—also known as Dudu - plans to reclaim his patch from Rocinha's current boss, 23-year-old Luciano Barbosa da Silva, or Lulu.

Locals say Dudu, the leader of a breakaway group within the Comando Vermelho, has put together an army of up to 1,000 men.

According to the police anti-drugs squad, Lulu has 200 men waiting for the attack armed with around 150 rifles. Young men can be seen patrolling Rocinha's alleys, carrying automatic rifles.

Today, police now occupying the favela, confirmed the rumours. "It's precisely because of the possibility of an invasion that we have gone into the favela as part of our operations. We hope to be able to avoid this war, through our presence," said Gláucio Santos of the Civil Police's special operations unit (CORE).

"It is a peaceful community and we are doing all we can to avoid bloodshed. The police will stay there for as long as is necessary," police chief Alvaro Lins told local television.

Fearful of violence, teachers at local schools are advising pupils to stay indoors when possible. Traffickers have imposed a 10 pm curfew on the area, and all vehicles arriving in Rocinha after this time are searched. Tinted car windows have been banned by Lulu, wary of his rival's attack.

"The old guy wants to come back," confirmed one local. "So it's a bit complicated at the moment, but it will pass."

Whilst some residents are reported to have fled the area in fear of bloodshed, others are playing down such a scenario. Some suggest that the police presence will deter any invasion.

Rocinha is the largest favela in South America, with some 127,000 residents. Though the area was once one of the most dangerous parts of the city, it has enjoyed a relatively peaceful recent history. Thousands of tourists now visit each year, as part of so-called `exotic' tours.

Yet Rocinha remains one of the principal points of drug trafficking in Rio, generating an estimated R$10 million (US$ 3.3 million) each year, according to police.

On January 29, 30 police special agents—with helicopter backup—entered the area, searching for Lulu's arsenal, which they believe is hidden in the surrounding forest. An AR-15 rifle, with a thousand bullets, and 1,300 wraps of cocaine, were found. Police also recovered a T-shirt, emblazoned with a single phrase: "The blue berets don't die, they go to hell, if they regroup and come back to fight the enemy."


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 and his articles can also be found at: www.leedsstudent.org.uk


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