Source: Jornal do Brasil
Translation: C. Brayton
Van drivers from the Rio da Prata van service collective held a message on December 21 in Bangu, Rio de Janeiro, to discuss ways to cope with threats from militia groups.
Although part of the informal economy, the van services have made clever use of Google Sites to keep riders up to date on routes and schedules. Van services have been singled out as a priority by the state government, which seeks to facilitate the legalization of drivers and cooperatives.
Since Saturday, December 14, armed men have begun charging van drivers R$200 a week [sic], threatening to burn their vehicles if the tax is not paid. The extortion scheme is taking place in the Santa Cruz and Sepetiba neighborhoods.
The beachfront Sepetiba was the scene of a raid on the leader of a militia organization — a retired military police trooper — in July 2012. During the investigations, a clandestine cemetery was found and a cheesy but menacing cobra head sword was seized from the leader of the group — see the video, above.
Santa Cruz has been similarly targeted.
Fearing reprisals, the Rio da Prata coop has taken 80% of its vehicles off the street.
This is not the first time the coops have been threatened. In October, another militia group demanded a daily [sic] fee of $150 to let van drivers circulate freely.