Last September, Brazilian army troops were deployed to quell fighting between rival drug gangs in Rocinha, the most notoriously violent of Rio de Janiero’s favelas—the informal urban settlements in the north of the city, virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized anti-drug operations.
On December 6, authorities announced the apprehension of the fugitive gang leader who was said be behind that wave of violence but eluded capture at the time. Rogerio Avelino da Silva, AKA “Rogerio 157,” was detained in Arara, another favela in the north of the city.
Nearly 3,000 officers from the Federal Police, as well as army troops, took part in the “mega-operation” that led to his arrest—although Rogerio offered no resistance in the end.
Some of the arresting officers took selfies with the apprehended gang boss. Brazilian daily O Globo published the selfies, some of which show Rogerio smiling while the rifle-toting officers flashed the peace sign.
An award of 50,000 reals ($15,000) was placed on da Silva’s head, and his eluding of the authorities was clearly seen as a humiliation. The spectacular violence in Rocinha was just the most recent of his high-profile escapades. In 2010, Rogerio was part of a posse that took several tourists hostage at the Intercontinental Hotel in Rio’s swanky São Conrado beach. One woman was killed in the ensuing shoot-out.
Rogerio was said to be a virtual government unto himself across much of the sprawling Rocinha and neighboring favelas, where the cocaine trade is virtually the only economy. But his arrest may only set off a new power struggle among the gangs that control the favela. The Rio Times reported that just minutes after the apprehension of Rogerio, the echo of gunfire could be heard in the Rocinha.