Brazil: Rocinha Shantytown Goes to War

     Brazil: Rocinha Shantytown Goes 
to War

    In Rocinha, Rio de
    Janeiro, the largest favela in South America,
    teachers at local schools are advising pupils to stay indoors.

    Traffickers have imposed a 10 pm curfew on the area, and all
    vehicles arriving in Rocinha after this time are searched.
    Tinted car windows have been banned by a drug lord.
    by: Tom

    In the week that City of God—a film depicting wars
    between rival drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro—received four
    Oscar nominations, a real life drama is being acted out in the
    city’s largest favela.

    This time, it’s not Zé
    Pequeno or Mané Galinha—Cidade de Deus’ semi-fictional
    traffickers—but Lulu and Dudu—rivals from the Comando Vermelho criminal
    faction, battling for control of Rocinha’s drug trade.

    Rumours of an imminent
    turf-war have been circulating in Rocinha since one of the area’s old controllers
    escaped from prison two weeks ago. It’s thought that Eduíno Eustáquio
    de Araújo—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 Comando Vermelho, 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 around
    150 rifles. Young men can be seen patrolling Rocinha’s alleys, carrying automatic

    Today, police now occupying
    the favela, 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 10 pm 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."

    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

    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 so-called `exotic’ tours.

    Yet Rocinha remains one
    of the principal points of drug trafficking in Rio, generating an estimated
    R$10 million (US$ 3.3 million) each year, according to police.

    On January 29, 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."

    Tom Phillips is a British journalist living in Rio de Janeiro. He writes
    for a variety of publications on politics and current affairs, as well as
    various aspects of the cultura brasileira. Tom can be reached on: and
    his articles can also be found at:

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