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The Militias of Rio | Operation Peacemaker

The militias of Rio — protection and black marketeering rackets run by moonlighting or retired police and firemen — are so vivid in the popular imagination that they figure in the latest Globo prime-time soap, if only tangentially.

The evil Tereza Cristinga of Fina Estampa hires an ex-fireman, working as security chief at her condominium, to perform various criminal acts against her archenemy and neighbor, the virtuous lottery winner Griselda.

In the novela Duas Caras — «two guys», «two faces», the character of Juvenal Antena evoked a similar scheme, in an homage to Tenório Cavalcante, «The Man in the Black Cape» — the film bio of a Baixada Fluminense lawmaker from the 1950s who never left home without his Thomson submachine gun, nicknamed Lurdinha.

Coverage of real-life schemes tends to be sparse, and usually rather closed-mouth when it does see print — these groups constitute a real danger to reporters, as journos from O Dia will testify.

A symptom of this eloquent silence is today’s coverage of the event — not a single major news outlet runs anything more than the official statement. The story was essentially Ctl-C, Ctl-V blogged without anyone ever leaving the newsroom.

Nevertheless, it is painfully obvious that Rio must put an end to such privateering paramilitary schemes by kickoff time for the 2014 Cup.

If it does not, the city risks having to depend on these schemes to maintain order in  the «hillside» shantytowns to avoid public embarrassment. It has happened before, and has the potential to undo a great deal of political goodwiil.

WIth that in mind, G1 reports:

Twelve suspects were arrested in the early morning hours today, as part of Operation Peacekeeper, conducted by the Special Investigations and Anti-Organized Crime division, DRACO, which targets militia activity in the Baixada Fluminense region. The announcement was made by the state public safety office. Police are serving 25 arrest warrants and 58 search and seizure warrants in Duque de Caxias.

According to the state, 11 military policemen, including one officer, are among the suspects, along with a state judicial police officer, a Marine Corps soldier and three ex-military police.

Again according to the state, one of the search warrants will be served on the 15th Military Police Battalion (Duque de Caxias).

Draco/IE chief Alexandre Capote says the organization has been under investigation for a year now and has operated since at least 2007 in  Pantanal, Parque Fluminense, Parque Muisa, São Bento, Pilar, Vila Rosário, Vila São José, Parque Suécia, Lote XV, Sarapuí, Vila Guaíra, Jardim Leal and Gramacho, all neighborhoods in Duque de Caxias.

Police say the raid is a follow-up to «Operation Black Cape» (2010), which also targeted a Duque de Caxias militia. By the end of that year, some suspects wound up being released, and five witnesses were murderered.

Capote says the group commits a variety of crimes, including murder, disposal of corpses, torture, assault, extortion, threats, libel, loan-sharking, claim-jumping, black-market cable TV and Internet, gambling, black-market van and mototaxi service and cooking-gas delivery.

The investigation has also uncovered the collection of security fees …

We have seen other anti-militia actions this week. In the Western Zone of Rio proper,

Two men were arrested by the homicide bureau on Tuesday in Santa Cruz and are charged with membership in a militia. Carlos “Barbosinha” Barbosa da Silva, is said to be a military policeman. Also arrested was Leonardo “Leo Capoeira” Braga.

Homicide detectives have evidence of at least three executions by the two, who are also accused of exploiting the black-market cable TV business.The suspects were taken to a police precinct in Barra da Tijuca.

Yesterday reports were that the murder of a police sergeant by militiamen had been solved thanks to a tip line.

Mid-February, a handful of militia defendants were absolved and released in another murder prosecution.