Currently, these criminals dominate 25.5% of Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhoods: 57.5% of the city’s territory. This was determined by a recent study that causes great impact in Brazil
The violence of criminal gangs and armed groups made up of police, military or firefighters — active or retired — in Brazil has been going on for years. These groups condition the lives of millions of people in the areas under their control. Unfortunately, this situation has worsened during the Jair Bolsonaro regime.
But who are these gangs present in more than half of the Brazilian territory and have they infiltrated politics? The journalist Marta Miera made a news report on the subject published in Russia Today (RT). There she addresses this serious situation and how the presence of these criminals are gaining more strength during Bolsonaro’s administration.
Its birth is located at the end of the ’70s, in the midst of the military dictatorship (1964–1985). They are considered heirs to the so-called “death squads”. These were extermination groups made up of police and other security agents financed by businessmen or merchants ‘to act’ according to their interests. Among other crimes, they were the perpetrators of intimidation, extortion and murder.
The sociologist José Cláudio Souza Alves has been studying these criminal gangs for decades. In the news report, he explains that the ex-agents were trained in extremely violent police operations. This is precisely how they became specialists in crime. During the 1970’s they carried out a large number of murders under the following logic: “the enemy has to die”.
The “militias”, as they are known today, were born in 2000, in the violent and populous neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. These are formed on the promise of ensuring the safety of neighbors and protecting them from drug trafficking. To achieve that goal, they have the collusion of the authorities.
But, they have quickly lost those characteristics. Some are already directly associated with drug trafficking and the police even refer to them as “narcomilicianos” (drug militia).
The monopoly of crime in Brazil
These narco-paramilitary and police groups — explains Miera — specialized in extortion and in the illegal trade of goods. They encompassed public land, buildings built without a permit, basic food or adulterated fuel. Also basic services such as gas, water, Internet or cable TV.
With a strong presence in the west and north of Rio, its tentacles reach out to clandestine lotteries, the so-called ‘jogo de bicho’. People even contact them to get a place in a public hospital.
Currently, these criminals dominate 25.5% of Rio de Janeiro’s neighborhoods: 57.5% of the city’s territory. This was determined by a recent study that causes great impact in Brazil, because it puts figures on the dimensions of this criminal power. More than two million people live in the areas they control, out of the 6.74 million inhabitants of Rio.
Bolsonaro’s far-right speech is based on: “more violence to combat violence”. The president defends that policy promoted in the 1970’s, which only enhances the power of these groups, denounces Souza Alvez.
In recent years, they have gained ground from drug traffickers. Together, both groups are present in 96 of the 163 neighborhoods of the city, which reaches 3.76 million people. These numbers explain the “war” that these groups wage against each other and against the State, with thousands of victims annually.
Militias and drug traffickers have so much power that, months ago, the dismissed former Minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, said that the authorities should “dialogue” with them to be able to combat the coronavirus in the favelas and neighborhoods under their power.
They impose the vote under threat of death
In addition, the aforementioned groups became a kind of ‘mafia’ that controls people’s lives. Specifically, where the Brazilian State has historically a very fragile presence, the militias impose their rules.
They even elect their electoral candidates and decide who can and who cannot campaign. Voters are not allowed to have an opinion, and they receive visits in their own homes to coerce them with threats, adds Miera’s news report.
“They force voters to vote for their candidates. They present themselves as benefactors of the community. They supposedly do favors and hope to be compensated with votes. If you don’t want to vote, then they use violence, which is their other form of coercion”, explains Souza Alves.
On November 15, the municipal elections will be held in Brazil. The expert considers that they will be “a great success” for these groups, because they will be able to expand much more in the territories and in politics. An estimated 672 polling stations are in the areas controlled by militias and drug traffickers.
“You have to choose your candidate and keep quiet. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your life just for wanting to support someone”, a neighbor commented, under anonymity, to a local media outlet.
This month, after two candidates were shot down dead, the Police deployed an operation to guarantee security in the elections. In a bloody police operation, 12 militiamen related to Wellington da Silva Braga, alias Ecko, who commands one of the largest militias in Rio, were killed.
“The electoral process worries us and — obviously — we must be present so that the population can express their vote. We know that the militia tries to direct certain votes”, explained Rodrigo Teixeira, Undersecretary of Planning and Operational Integration of the Civil Police.
The wave of violence that erupted in the 2016 elections, when 15 would-be councilors and mayors were assassinated, is still present.
The Bolsonaro family
“In recent years, a lot of information has been revealed about the Bolsonaro’s family ties to the militiamen. Their relationship would be mainly through Flávio Bolsonaro, the president’s eldest son, with Adriano Magalhães da Nóbrega”, says the sociologist.
In February, a police operation ended with the life of Nóbrega. He was a former captain of the Special Operations Battalion (Bope), the elite troop of the Rio Military Police, who became a militia leader.
Nóbrega was accused of being part of the so-called ‘Crime Desk’ (Escritorio de Crimen). This extermination group is being investigated for the 2018 murder of the councilor and human rights activist Marielle Franco, who did not cease to denounce the growing power of the militias and their ties to politics.
In June 2005, Flávio Bolsonaro, then a deputy in the Legislative Assembly of Rio, condecorated Nóbrega while he was in prison. That same year, Jair Bolsonaro made a speech in the Chamber of Deputies in defense of Nóbrega, explains Miera in her news report.
In addition, Nóbrega was a friend of Fabrício Queiroz, Flávio’s former adviser and driver, who is currently being investigated together with the president’s son for corruption. It was Queiroz who recommended Nóbrega’s mother and his ex-wife to work in Flávio’s cabinet.
Coincidence or not, Queiroz and Nóbrega lived in the same urbanization as Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer accused of gunning down the councilor and her driver Anderson Gomes. Franco had become a ‘nuisance’ to the militias.
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