Rio Gangs Get Heavy Weapons Through 17 Holes in Brazil’s Borders

Downed police helicopter in Rio favela Illegal weapons are brought to Rio through 17 places according to a report by the Brazilian Federal Police. These arms include most of those used by organized crime such as heavy machine guns capable of downing a helicopter as recently happened in one of the favelas, the shanty towns that speck Olympic city of Rio do Janeiro.

Most of the weapons travel 2.500 kilometers on Brazilian roads from frontier areas before they reach the crime organizations in the city that is scheduled to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

The main points of introduction of weapons into Brazil are Bolivia and Paraguay, but also from Peru, Argentina and to a lesser extent Uruguay according to a report published in the São Paulo press.

Data from the federal Public Security Institute shows that from January to August 2007, 754 assault rifles, machine guns, heavy machine guns, including 39 capable of shooting down helicopters and light aircraft were captured by special forces in the Olympic city.

Since the year 2000, a total of 3.500 weapons have been recovered by special forces, of which 3% "heavy weapons" and a few short range portable missiles.

According to the media report, heavy weapons began to be introduced in the eighties when the favelas gangs became involved in the drugs business, particularly cocaine.

Since 1995 the Federal police in Rio started to purchase assault rifles and in the last two years has spent over US$ 16 million in weapons, aircraft with special armored plating and armored vehicles.

The illegal weapons are brought into Brazil in cars, trucks and regular bus services, hidden inside the vehicles. Some private cars have been caught with ten weapons neatly distributed in different compartments.

Wire tapping has recorded drug dealers negotiating the purchase of 10 assault rifles and 10 pistols, paying US$ 86,000 to a Bolivian national. The smuggled weapons reached the Fluminense quarter in Rio and were delivered to the Comando Vermelho (Red Command), a notorious gang which ended paying US$ 290,000 for the shipment.

"We have 16,000 kilometers of open land borders. The geographic factor complicates control of borders," admits Rafael Floriani, head of the Arms Traffic Control Division from the Federal Police.

According to law enforcement officers and security experts, the drug gangs in the favelas arm heavily to defend their turf from rival factions in other favelas

The Alemão favela to the north of Rio and haven of the Comando Vermelho, for example has an estimated 60 assault rifles, according to a report from daily Folha de S. Paulo.



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