About 22% of the neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro and its periphery are in the hands of armed militias, formed in part by former police, military and firefighters, according to an investigation carried out by the Study Group on the new illegality of the Fluminense Federal University (UFF) and the Nucleus of Violence Studies of the University of São Paulo (USP). Dial-Denunciation and the Fogo Cruzado and Pista News platforms have also participated in the work. The study has done nothing more than put a number to a daily reality that affects the so-called “Great River”, populated by 12 million people.
These paramilitary groups were born under the protection of the mafias that control the ‘animal game’, as the clandestine lottery that moves millions of euros is known. Later they made the jump to the extortion: security for Cariocas in exchange for money. They are also dedicated to providing citizens with informal transportation services, cable television, sale of gas and bottled water. They even charge for consultations in public hospitals.
Although in some cases its presence in the neighborhoods is rather discreet, subtle, in others it is completely open. This militia is considered the second illegal force in Rio. Only the Comando Vermelho, a gang that is dedicated to drug trafficking. There are other groups of minor narcos but also of great significance, such as ‘Tercer Comando’ or the one known as ‘Amigos de los amigos’. The police already speak openly of “narcomilicianos“, alluding to alleged links between both worlds of crime.
Over time, the militias have become an integrated part of Rio’s society. They have their own candidates in the local elections scheduled for next November. Despite the pandemic, the applicants have had no qualms about presenting their candidacies in the streets of Baixada Fluminense with large street parties and free beer. In other neighborhoods, the São Paulo newspaper ‘Folha’ reported, residents were summoned to a meeting in a bar or, in some cases, forced to receive applicants in their homes. Sometimes they are presented as “benefactors“from the community. But if that does not seem to convince the voters, then the threats come: the votes at gunpoint and they are in charge of avoiding the presence of electoral rivals. According to ‘Folha’, the murders have not been lacking.
According to the sociologist José Cláudio Alves, next month’s municipal elections will become the “apotheosis “of the paramilitary groups. “The good bandit is a dead bandit,” they often proclaim. The speeches of the extreme right, common in the country Since the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency and Wilzon Witzel to the Rio de Janeiro state governorship, they have done nothing but favor the projection of these criminals. Armed clashes with the security forces are frequent. Last week, 12 police officers were shot dead in the municipality of Itaguaí, 73 kilometers from the state capital, Metropolitan Region.
Links with the Bolsonaro
Connoisseurs of the Rio de Janeiro reality usually remember the “”dangerous relationships“that have existed for years between the militias and the Bolsonaro family. Nothing the president blushes about. Last February, the Bahia state police killed the paramilitary chief Adriano Magalhaes da Nóbrega, after several months of searching. In the past, Nóbrega was called a “hero” by Bolsonaro. In 2005, the current Brazilian president proposed to the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro to award him the Tiradentes Medal. At that time, Nóbrega was a member of the Special Operations Battalion of the military police and became popular for being the instructor of the actors who proptagonized the very successful film by director José Padhila, ‘Elite Troop’.
But Nóbrega became ‘Captain Adriano’ in the underworld of crime when he joined a militia called “Crime bureau“. He was linked to Fabrício Queiroz, former adviser of Bolsonaro’s son, Flavio, current senator. ‘Captain Adriano’ was also pointed out in the death in March 2018 of the councilor Marielle Franco, allegedly killed by another paramilitary, Ronald Lessa, a former member also of the Military Police Battalion. Lessa was a neighbor of the condominium located on Barra da Tijuca beach, where Bolsonaro lived before he became president of the country. His electoral victory has helped the construction in Rio del parallel state and militarized.