Rio suburb faces drugs war showdown

Americas Uncategorized

As City of God – a film depicting wars between rival drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro – receives four Oscar nominations, a real life version is taking place in the city.

This time the central characters of the action are not Zé Pequeno or Mané Galinha – Fernando Mereilles’ semi-fictional traficantes – but Lulu and Dudu – rivals from the Comando Vermelho criminal faction, battling for control of the drugs trade in this once-notorious favela, Rocinha.

Rumours of an imminent turf war have been circulating in Rocinha since one of the area’s former rignleaders escaped from prison two weeks ago.

It is thought that Eduíno Eustáquio de Araúju – 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 "CV", 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 about 150 rifles. Young men can be seen patrolling Rocinha’s alleys, carrying automatic rifles.

Police, who are now occupying the favela, have 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 2200 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," he said.

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 this Brazilian city’s so-called "exotic" tours.

Yet Rocinha remains one of the principal points of drug trafficking in Rio, generating an estimated R$10m each year, according to police.

Last Thursday 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."