1,200 Vigilantes Poised to Invade Brazil’s City of God. It’s Not a Movie

A scene from Brazilian movie Cidade de Deus (City of God) Cidade de Deus (City of God), the Rio neighborhood made famous by the eponymous Fernando Meirelles movie, is getting ready for a real-life  war. An army of 1,200 men led by a police agent and a firefighter officer is poised to take over Cidade de Deus from the drug traffickers that now control it. 

According to Rio daily O Dia, a militia made up of active and former policemen plus mercenaries who are receiving 200 reais (US$ 95) a day, is being trained right now for the mission.

All of them are being assured that they will have a well-equipped arsenal with plenty of weapons and ammunition when the time for the attack comes.

Cidade de Deus, in Jacarepaguá, in Rio's west side, has about 40,000 residents and an active drug trafficking base. The vigilantes would like to make the area an operational center for their own activities.

While the gangs's main activity to raise funds is drug trafficking, the militias, a new phenomenon in Rio, get money through extortion and protection fees. But it's feared they will soon be also dealing with drugs whether they get rid of the drug lords or not.

Always the powerless in a war of powerful outlaws, Rio's authorities have been following the 4-month-old preparations for the invasion from a distance.

Information obtained by O Dia from a "top source" at the Rio de Janeiro state's Security Secretariat reveal that the invasion plans are being headed by a civilian policeman known by the nickname of Robocop and a fireman called Girão.

The Cidade de Deus take over should be launched simultaneously from several other nearby communities, which have already fallen into the militias' hand. They include among others the following shantytowns: Favela da Covanca, São José Operário, Bateau Mouche, Caixa D'ígua and Morro do Fubá.

According to Rio's Intelligence Undersecretariat, an Army sergeant on active duty by the nickname of Soquetão is the leader of the Gardênia Azul militia. The group is based in an area very close to Cidade de Deus.

Soquetão when is not preparing the Cidade de Deus invasion works at the Army's Central Hospital in Rio. He is also known to be the owner of a large fish store as well as a partner in a bingo operation. Soquetão is said to be already active offering private protection, for a fee, to businesses and residences alike.

Vila Sapê, in Jacarepaguá, used to be a sales point for drugs coming from Cidade de Deus. But the place has now been taken by "soldiers" of Robocop and Girão.

It was in that neighborhood that three boys between the ages 10 to 14 were tortured, strangled and then left inside plastic bags, last October. Other five people were also murdered under suspicion of owing money to drug dealers or having passed information to the police.

Military police corporal Jorsan Machado de Oliveira, 30, better known as Jorsan Japanese and his friend Antônio Paulo da Costa, 25, were killed two weeks ago right after leaving a party at Escola de Samba Renascer.

Corporal Oliveira worked at the Military Police's Shock Battalion and is believed to have led the militia group that expelled the drug traffickers from Morro da Caixa D'ígua in the Complexo do Alemão. Apparently he had also allied himself to Robocop and Girão.

For Rio's authorities, Cidade de Deus is a strategic location for the militias. It is a central area surrounded by several other neighborhoods like Anil, Curicica, Freguesia, Gardênia Azul, Praça Seca, Pechincha, Taquara, Tanque and Vila Valqueire. The vigilantes have already taken over some of them.

Heretofore the Cidade de Deus druglords have been able to hold their ground against the invading militias. But everybody knows all hell is  about to break loose.

In the middle of the two digladiating forces, the shantytown's residents are getting ready for the impending confrontation.

As an anonymous 52-year-old man and 30-year resident of Cidade de Deus, with four teenagers, told O Dia: "We don't know what's worse, the drug lords or the militias. All we know is that in conflicts between armed men we always end up getting the worst of it."

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