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Brazil Deploys Army to Rio Favela Caught in Crosshairs of Drug War

Bill Weinberg

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Brazil Deploys Army to Rio Favela Caught In Crosshairs of Drug War

Brazil’s ongoing favela wars have taken a dramatic turn for the bloody, prompting the government to send military troops into Rio de Janiero’s notorious Rocinha. This is the most violent of the city’s sprawling favelas—informal urban settlements virtually abandoned by the government for anything other than militarized anti-drug operations.

On Sept. 22, the army deployed nearly 1,000 troops to Rocinha, responding to a request from the Rio state government, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told local TV.

The Rio Times reported that the violence in Rocinha is the deadliest since the launch of a “pacification” program in 2011 to push warring narco gangs out of the city’s favelas.

Jody King, an English expatriate who works as a DJ and operates the Favela Phoenix non-governmental organization, described the violence in The Rio Times: “The gunfire went on for five hours non-stop, the electricity went out, we could hear grenades going off, plumes of smoke going up all over the favela. It was like a war zone. And still is.”

After hours of intense gun battles, security forces said they arrested a main figure, Luiz Alberto Santos de Moura AKA “Bob do Caju.” He is being held responsible for at least four deaths in Rocinha over the past week.

According to Rio’s Civil Police, Bob do Caju is locked in a power struggle with rival gang boss Antônio Francisco Bonfim Lopes AKA “Nem,” who is now imprisoned at Porto Velho Federal Penitentiary.

A henchman named Rogério Avelino da Silva AKA “Rogério 157” is said to be controlling Nem’s operations in Rocinha as a proxy.

Control over Rio’s Amigos dos Amigos (Friends of Friends) cocaine gang is said to be a catalyst of the conflict. Bob do Caju was arrested in the nearby area of Ilha do Governador, where he was hiding. This is also reportedly where he was when he organized the Sept. 17 “invasion” of Rocinha. Ten assualt rifles were found in the raid on his hide-out.

Amid all this, one of Brazil’s most revered athletes, former Inter Milan football star Adriano, made embarrassing headlines when a photograph emerged of him hanging out with Rogério 157.

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