By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to local news reports, militias have taken over water and coal distribution in Rio’s largest favela community, Rocinha, in Zona Sul (South Zone). Community store, market, restaurant and bar owners have been forced to forgo their regular suppliers and purchase mineral water and coal from a specific location within the massive favela and at a much higher price.
And with militias enforcing a monopoly on water and coal, local merchants fear this is only the beginning. “Our concern is that, soon, [the militias] will do the same with rice, beans, fruits, vegetables, beverages, tobacco,” explained one shopkeeper, who wished to remain anonymous, to O Globo.
The shopkeeper added that to ensure compliance, the militias are preventing delivery trucks from entering the favela. “Some guys went from store to store warning us that the water and coal delivery trucks would not enter the community, and they gave us the place where we should buy…and it is much more expensive,” exclaimed the shop owner.
According to reports, militia groups have already, for some time now, had a similar restriction in place for beer sold in Rocinha. One merchant revealed that only delivery trucks of a single brand are allowed to climb the hill into the favela. “[The militias] came to tell us that they would also forbid us from picking up beer on the beach.” He added, “For now, [the militias] haven’t done anything. But, I do not know what the future holds,” the merchant implored, “We are asking for help.”
In a released statement, the Civil Police admitted it has received numerous complaints regarding the militias’ distribution monopoly and it has possibly identified the two individuals responsible. “The investigation is well underway and we have already identified two criminals responsible for such an order.”
However, the Civil Police added, “At the moment, it is not possible to disclose more information to not hinder ongoing investigations.”
With 69,000 registered residents and an estimated additional 150,000 to 200,000 inhabitants, Rocinha, once infamous for being controlled by violent drug gangs, was declared pacified in late 2011. Even with UPP outposts in place, however, there continue to be violent episodes and large police operations.