Opinon, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO – There was a shoot-out in São Conrado early Saturday morning; there was an invasion of high-rise condos; there followed the assault upon a five star hotel by black-clad bandidos, with hostage taking and the whole shebang.
What was the main reaction of the great mass of Rio citizenry, notwithstanding the efforts by national and international media to create a scandal? A shrug. Why? Mostly because no one was killed as a result of the invasion, which petered out into a surrender.
The bandidos had come from an all-night party in Vidigal and were heading home to Rocinha (at 8:30 am) when (pay attention because it gets a bit tricky here) the five (or so) vans and motorcycle escorts containing the bandidos were “noticed” by police who happened (or not) to be on the very route the bandidos were taking. And, for a very good reason (or not), shots broke out, the vans stopped; the bandidos poured out and headed for the hills (or not). Some of them headed for the ritzy condos located along the road.
Those who fled into condolândia soon realized their mistake, because these condos have excellent security systems and fences. Some bandidos then decided to try their luck at an unfenced venue—the Intercontinental Hotel, which is tonier than thou and was host to scores of runners in the Half Marathon on Sunday, not to mention scads of dentists at a convention. But after taking breakfasting guests and workers hostage, they all gave up without a struggle.
What actually happened? No one knows. First, the police said they were just conducting normal rounds in an area which they have not yet pacified (but soon will). But then, someone leaked out the story that there had been a secret, unauthorized operation to collar the Rocinha drugs kingpin (“Nem”). Just as soon as that story came out, the police fell over themselves to deny it. In case you’re wondering, Nem was not captured, but his alleged chief deputy was.
The Curmudgeon has a few questions. First, how is it that Nem and his band of merry men decide to make their way home to Rocinha from a debauch in Vidigal in an armed convoy with five vans plus motorcycle escort, and are not worried that their convoy will be perceived by the police?
Second, how is it that a police vehicle just happens to be in the area, and recognizes these five vans as “perpmobiles”? Third, what does it take to “authorize” an action against one of the town’s most wanted criminals? Last, why is it that almost a dozen of the “perps”, ensconced in the InterConti, with hostages, decide to give themselves up without a fight?
The Curmudgeon has an answer, based on history. Nem has been running Rocinha since 2005 and he’s not stupid; he knows that several hundreds of the people he “protects” work at the InterConti or at the luxury condos and houses surrounding Rocinha. Nem is not interested in them losing their jobs.
A similar situation obtained back in the 1980’s when a certain Denis ran Rocinha, and residents of São Conrado could leave their doors unlocked at night-no bandidos would come from Rocinha because they’d have to deal with Denis if they did. Unfortunately, Denis was arrested, went to jail and couldn’t control his former minions, who began invading houses every single night. [Yes, the Curmudgeon’s house was one of those.]
Therefore, the Curmudgeon asks one more question: Is it possible that the police do not authorize arresting Nem, because they too don’t want to upset the applecart now, before pacification begins? Stranger things than that have happened in Rio favelas.