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Rio | The Return of the Men in Black

Underground Rio van service vehicle, loaded with black-clad corpses wearing combat boots. August 2007

Underground Rio van service vehicle, loaded with black-clad corpses wearing combat boots. August 2007

Source: O Globo.

A challenge to police assigned to the Alemão complex: drug trade uses guerrilla tactics against UPPs.

A group comprising former soldiers and coopted by the drug trade currently controls the Maré shantytown complex and is said to be present in other pacified areas, such as Alemão and Penha.

[photo caption] Military police on motorcycles intensified their patrols in the Alemão complex after an exchange of gunfire on Sunday.

RIO — An intelligence report prepared by state law enforcement to explain the activities of the drug trade in Maré, despite its pacification, may contain an important clue to problems faced by police in another area: the Penha and Alemão complexes. In 15 pages replete with photos of armed drug traffickers and aerial photography, the document reports that the criminals have adopted guerrilla tactics, in which stealth is combined with extreme mobility and group members operate in small, heavily armed groups.

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A demonstration of military tactics took place last Sunday. In a bold move, criminals fired on the Police Pacification Unit (UPP) in Vila Cruzeiro, just before the start of the fourth edition of the Peace Challenge, which began in Penha and finished in the Alemão. The area was pacified in November 2010. During the attack, the criminals armed with assault rifles entered the community in small numbers and may have received logistical support locally. They came, they fired, they departed. The police are investigating the involvment of criminals who may have come from Duque de Caxias, in the Baixada Fluminense.

— It was a classical guerrilla tactic. In this specific case, the Sunday attack was intended to provoke terror, destabilize the area and create a sense of insecurity — said a police agent involved in the investigations who did not wish to be identified.

According the document, to which O Globo had access, a group of former soldiers coopted by the drug trade currently controls the Maré community and is operating in other pacified communities, such as  Mangueira (São Cristóvão) and Macacos (Vila Isabel); Jacarezinho (Méier) and the heights of Rocinha (São Conrado); as well as Alemão and Penha.

The report describes the criminals in detail: “They receive physical and combat training and wear black clothing during their attacks, which they consider combat uniforms.” Two of these uniforms were apprehended by the 21ª DP (Bonsucesso) and others in operations by the PM. The analysis of the criminal world in these shantytowns shows that the soldiers of the traffic use their military experience: “They exhibit a high degree of organization and control in their criminal activities, possibly because of the presence of ex-military in their ranks.”

In Maré, in particular, the report focuses on the story of drug trader Marcelo Santos das Dores, aka Menor P, who is accused of kidnapping and torturing the gambler Bernardo, fromVasco — in a deposition in which the victim refused to admit being assaulted. Head of the traffic in the region, Marcelo had been an army paratrooper. According to the First Division of the Brazilian Army, however, Marcelo was a mere recruit who left the military shortly after completing his obligatory service.

Crime operates as a network, says specialist

The Maré shantytowns are among those slated to receive a new UPP at a moment when the city is beginning a maximum public safety effort ahead of hosting important international events, from religious to sporting, such as the Confederation Cup and the International Youth Day.

Experts believe that even if the policy of pacification is not completely implemented, reactions by the traffic must be combated energetically.  In the view of anthropologist Roberto Kant de Lima, a professor at UFF and member of INEAC — the Institute for Comparative Studies in Conflict Management — the Rio police will have to invest in investigations and intelligence in order to confront the drug gangs:

— For these actions to work, agencies must work together in a spirit of cooperation. It will also be necessary to adopt procedures that make agents accountable, subject to real oversight of their investigations and not merely the formal obligations of their office.

The anthropologist observes that observa que é preciso criar mecanismos de cooperação eficientes entre as instituições:

— O problema é que as ações dessas instituições, muitas vezes, se sobrepõem, o que acarreta uma competição entre elas e, portanto, a manutenção das informações obtidas por cada uma longe do alcance das outras.

UFRJ professor Francisco Carlos Teixeira, author of the book “Terrorism in Latin AMerica,” believes that the war on the drug trade originated in a serious diagnostic error.

— Thinking in strategic terms, were were not able to identify our adversary correctly, with its strong and weak points. The occupation of territory, invariably without advance warning, has provided the adversary with the means to retreat, regroup and return to the community in the guise of an ordinary citizen.  For this reason, we have not understood that “networked criminality” has no need of territory — the UFRJ professor says.

Teixeira believes that authorities have not done their homework when it comes to basic anticrime actions.

— The traffic continues to communicate and coordinate, and maintains its financial flows, laundering money.  It continues to coopt new members, enlisting new “recruits” and receiving weapons and supplies.  Close, permanment cooperation is needed among state and federal police, the federal tax authority, the Central Bank and military intelligence. If these measures are not adopted, the state will continue to lose ground.

Marcelo, aka Menor P, controls a significant share of the drug trade in Maré. His group dominates the communities of Vila do João, Vila dos Pinheiros, Salsa e Merengue, Conjunto Esperança, Timbau, Baixa do Sapateiro and a significant portion of Nova Holanda. Marcelo is a fugitive from justrice since leaving Plácido Sá Carvalho prison in 2007 to serve the remainder of his sentence in semiopen status.