UPDATE ON MILITIA CRACKDOWN (OCT. 3 2010)
O Globo reports Oct. 1 that the North Zone area where the crackdown took place a week ago has now been invaded by drug traffickers.
So as not to call attention to themselves, Globo reports, the druglords are keeping their weapons under wraps. The state didn’t set up a police pacification unit (UPP) after making the 15 arrests of militia members, leaving open territory for the drug trade (which had ruled previous to the militia). According to Cláudio Ferraz, chief of DRACO, the police unit focusing on Rio’s paramilitary groups, there just aren’t enough men to set up as many UPPs as are needed.
According to O Globo, since Sept. 23 DRACO has made five additional arrests of militia members . The “Mirra’s Eagle ” militia ruled 23 favelas, under the leadership of former military police officer Fabrício Fernandes Mirra, from jail. A neighborhood association president said the militia required residents to pay protection money and a 20% commission on home sales, as well as higher prices than elsewhere for van transportation, bottled gas, cable tv, and internet service. According to police, wiretaps caught militia members discussing torture, housing confiscations, and arms sales. The paramilitary force also controlled all correspondence within the favelas.
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Brazil has four police forces. In Rio, an additional, informal force has cropped up in the absence of effective public safety over the last decade: murderous militias that extort small businesses in poor neighborhoods.
While some of Rio’s military police move on drug traffickers and occupy their favela fiefdoms, the city’s civil police are cracking down on paramilitary groups, the milícias—and arresting other military police in the process. Thursday, Operation Todos os Santos (All Saints) issued 40 arrest warrants, many of them for active or former military police officers; so far only 15 men have been taken in and O Globo reported Friday that the militia’s van business in the Água Santa area of the North Zone continued as usual.
The “Águia de Mirra” (Mirra’s Eagle) militia operates in ten North Zone favelas, in the cable tv, bottled gas, video slot machine, and van businesses. According to Civil Police chief Alan Turnowski, 440 militia members have been arrested in the past three years in Rio, including politicians, military and civil police officers, and members of the army. Thursday police found a large weapons cache, including a submachine gun, and located a clandestine cable tv signal repeater.
The group, which came to power in 2007 after a war with a drug trafficker that left 40 dead, reportedly circulates in favelas in a pickup with a machine gun on the roof.
For the first time ever, local residents have aided police in their investigation. They say militia members use military police vehicles, are extremely violent, and have kicked people out of their homes so as to collect rents.