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Brazil: Rocinha Shantytown Goes to War

 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.
by: 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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