By Cornelius Conboy, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Drug wars spilled out of the favelas into the Zona Sul last week as violence escalated in response to increased police actions. At least 8 people have been killed last week and dozens arrested in a concerted action against favela drug gangs.
Though drug related violence is nothing new in Rio de Janeiro it usually occurs primarily in the favelas, Rocinha being a prime example. Last week’s shootings spread out over the Zona Sul, starting Monday around 11:00 a.m. with a skirmish between police and drug dealers near the wooded area of Tabarajas. The conflict quickly spread to the Lagoa, where an officer was shot a few hours later, and into Copacabana where a powerful exchange of bullets left five bandits dead.
Attention for the week was focused on Rocinha. Wednesday four more people were arrested. The police also seized cloned credit cards, along with numerous rifles, pistols and grenades. Seven motorcycles were also seized.
Ronaldo Oliveira, speaking for the Rio police department (DPC), reported Wednesday that three more people died during an operation on Wednesday in the favela of Rocinha. Two others were injured when police invaded and found two laboratories for refining cocaine. Police estimate each was capable of processing 200kg per week. A weapons storage facility was located nearby that contained about 100kg of gunpowder. In another alley at the top of the favela, the police found a workshop where weapons and grenades were repaired.
The police also seized nearly a ton of marijuana, and needed a helicopter to haul it away.
According to Oliveira, the well planned action succeeded in disrupting the gang’s financial activities and there will be many more; “Other operations such as this are planned and will be made. We target sections of the favela where we can achieve our goals. Rocinha is a favorite location since its geographical positioning makes it a central location for both the sale and distribution of drugs,” he said.
About 250 men from 18 different police stations, took part in the action. Their immediate goal is to counteract the traffickers increasing violence that started last Saturday in the Ladeira Tabajaras area, near Copacabana.
According to Oliveira, the cocaine laboratory found Wednesday morning was very professionally built and constructed quite recently. He noted that the site was used to dilute the pure drug with sodium bicarbonate. Later police announced that cement had been discovered as an additional diluting agent. Oliveira noted dryly that the Rocinha gangs were not known for their quality.
As the week progressed police made repeated incursions on Rocinha leading to more arrests and announcing the disruption of as much as one million reais per week in business.
Correction: April 9, 2009
This article was first published on March 31st as “Mexican Cartel Behind Rocinha”, and unsubstantiated connections were made between the favela drug gangs and Mexican cartels.