HomeNewsBriefArrest of Rio Drug Kingpin Unlikely to Break Gang Control
BRIEF

Arrest of Rio Drug Kingpin Unlikely to Break Gang Control

AMIGOS DOS AMIGOS / 6 DEC 2017 BY ANGELIKA ALBALADEJO EN

One of Rio’s most wanted drug kingpins has been arrested in a massive security operation, raising questions about how his capture might affect criminal dynamics in Brazil's second-largest city.

Rogério Avelino da Silva, alias “Rogério 157,” was arrested by security forces during a December 6 operation involving some 3,000 soldiers and police officers, the Rio State Security Secretariat said in a press release.

Cristiana Bento, one of the police detectives who coordinated Rogério’s arrest, told the Guardian that “the arrest was very important to dismantle organized crime.”

Police officers present during Rogério’s arrest told O Globo that the criminal leader had been under surveillance. Authorities made the arrest when Rogério fled from a safe house where he was under bodyguard protection and attempted to hide in a home in the Parque Arará neighborhood.

Rogério 157, nicknamed for Brazil’s penal code for armed robberies, was wanted on charges of homicide, extortion and drug trafficking. Authorities had offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, following accusations that he sparked a recent turf war for control over the drug trade in Rocinha, one of the city's largest marginalized neighborhoods known in Brazil as "favelas."

The outbreak of violence in Rocinha in September was linked to a feud between Rogério and his former boss, Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, alias “Nem.”

Nem, who was arrested in 2011, continues to run the Amigos dos Amigos gang, which controls drug trafficking operations in Rocinha. The turf war apparently erupted when Rogério, Nem’s former bodyguard, broke from the ranks of Amigos dos Amigos and joined forces with the Red Command (Comando Vermelho), one of Brazil’s most powerful criminal networks.

Rogério reportedly had been altering his appearance to avoid arrest and unsuccessfully attempted to bribe police officers to release him from custody. Several police officers, whom a supervisor described as pumped up on “adrenaline” following the high-profile arrest, posted “selfies” with the captured criminal leader on social media.

Bento told O Globo that Rogério will be transferred to a maximum security prison in the Rio neighborhood of Gericinó within a day. The detective also said that a request will be filed to transfer him to a federal prison outside of Rio de Janeiro state.

InSight Crime Analysis

While Rio authorities have hailed Rogério’s arrest as a win in the fight against organized crime, experts told InSight Crime that his capture is unlikely to disrupt existing criminal control over Rocinha, and could lead to further violent turf wars.

Desmond Arias, an associate professor at George Mason University, told InSight Crime that although Rio authorities perceive Rogério’s arrest as a “successful operation against someone who is making a lot of trouble in the city,” this type of targeted action against an individual will do little to help security forces regain territorial control or stop systematic violence in Rocinha.

“Rocinha has a history of just this type of split” between rival gang factions due to the favela’s size and strategic significance for drug dealing and other illicit activities, Arias said, noting that the Red Command and the Amigos dos Amigos have sparred for control over this area in the past.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles

Júlio Altieri from the security consultancy firm Amarante told InSight Crime that Amigos dos Amigos and the Red Command will likely maintain their areas of criminal control in Rio’s largest favela for the foreseeable future.

According to Altieri, major turf wars are unlikely as long as soldiers and police officers continue to occupy Rocinha and media attention remains fixed there. However, he warned that territorial battles could resume after security forces pull out of Rocinha or if one of the rival criminal groups can successfully co-opt authorities.

According to Altieri, Rogério, like his former boss and current rival Nem, is likely to continue exerting control over the disputed territory from prison. Rogério’s power will stem in large part from his relationship with the Red Command, one of Brazil’s oldest and strongest criminal networks, which runs its illicit activities from inside the country’s penitentiaries.

Altieri noted that the Red Command has the largest stockpile of weapons, money and territory of any criminal group in Rio, currently controlling almost every favela in Rio’s south zone.

Amigos dos Amigos on the other hand “are not at their best moment,” he said. The criminal group has been slowly losing its foothold in some of the favelas they once controlled and has been increasingly seeking support from other local gangs.

On the other hand, Arias cast some doubt on Rogério’s ability to run operations from prison due to his recent change in gang loyalty. According to Arias, Rogério’s continuing control hinges on “his relative strength within the Red Command and how much they are willing to go to bat for him,” as well as his popularity on the ground in Rocinha.

A resident of Rocinha who spoke anonymously to the Guardian echoed Altieri's and Arias’ predictions, saying “when these guys are jailed there is no interruption to their command. People are worried because the war in Rocinha has not ended with 157’s arrest. And the unfolding of this arrest will be more confrontation, more dispute for territory.”

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 3 AUG 2017

For the eighth year in a row, an annual report from the Gallup polling organization has ranked Latin America as the…

BRAZIL / 11 JAN 2021

Within the span of a week, cocaine was discovered in two separate maritime cargo containers bound for Libya, a strong…

BRAZIL / 30 MAY 2013

Brazil will install video surveillance cameras along the 17,000 kilometer border it shares with 10 other countries, as part of…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…