HomeNewsBrief'Classic Rio Gangster Battle' Leaves Brazil Favela in State of Siege
BRIEF

'Classic Rio Gangster Battle' Leaves Brazil Favela in State of Siege

AMIGOS DOS AMIGOS / 26 SEP 2017 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

One of Brazil's largest favelas has been under siege for more than a week as two rival crime groups battle for territorial control, illustrating shifting criminal dynamics in the city and raising questions about whether or not security forces will be able to restore order.

On September 17, gunfire erupted in Rio de Janeiro's Rocinha favela -- the city's largest -- as rival criminal groups battled for control of drug trafficking activities, according to local news outlets. The violence has continued in subsequent days.

Dozens of alleged gang members have reportedly descended on Rocinha at the behest of Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, alias "Nem," who led the Amigos dos Amigos gang in Rocinha before he was arrested in 2011. Nem has reportedly maintained control over drug trafficking operations in Rocinha from federal prison since his arrest.

The impetus for the recent violence has been linked to a feud between Nem and his former bodyguard Rogério Avelino da Silva, alias "Rogério 157." Rogério 157 has reportedly broken from the ranks of Nem's Amigos dos Amigos gang and joined forces with the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) in an apparent attempt to assert greater control over the local drug trade.

SEE ALSO: Amigos dos Amigos Profile 

The ongoing battle -- which according to O Globo has featured grenades, hours-long gun battles and a bus being set on fire -- has severely impacted normal life for Rocinha's residents. The confrontation has caused major road closures, prevented thousands of students from attending school and caused business and health center closures. 

Brazil Defense Minister Raul Jungmann announced September 22 that 950 soldiers would be deployed to Rocinha until the "situation is stabilized for the safety of the population."

InSight Crime Analysis 

The sheer scale of the ongoing turf war in Rocinha and the striking displays of violence suggest that the city's criminal underworld is in significant turmoil. Whether or not security forces will be able to curtail, and ultimately end, the conflict remains to be seen.

Desmond Arias, an associate professor at George Mason University, told InSight Crime that the underlying issue is the "relationship among the drug dealers," who he says have a "tendency to fight things out until it's done." 

"This is a classic Rio gangster battle," Arias told InSight Crime. "Why would [Rogério 157] want to pay Nem to control Rocinha when he's on the streets? They are risking their lives, and at a certain point, some people think there's an upside to taking the risk of shrugging off orders." 

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profiles 

Felipe Medeiros, an analyst at the consulting firm S-RM, told InSight Crime that the stakes for crime groups in Rocinha are "very high." 

"It is possibly the most profitable favela in Rio in terms of drug sales revenue," he said. 

According to Arias, the conflict is likely to continue until somebody or some faction prevails and "consolidates power to work things out and calm things down." 

At the same time, it's unlikely that the recent deployment of nearly 1,000 soldiers will help achieve this goal. Rio de Janeiro's heavily militarized security strategies have repeatedly proven ineffective, and recent efforts to improve security have been plagued by underfunding in part due to the city's financial crisis.

Júlio Altieri Monteiro from the security consultancy firm Amarante warned that due to the "bad shape" of Rio's public security forces, among other factors, it is possible that Rocinha may "not return to the state of stability seen in the last five years."

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

BRAZIL / 18 DEC 2020

“Plata o Plomo” is an overused phrase to describe the way criminals threaten officials and civilians to ensure compliance with…

ARGENTINA / 10 AUG 2022

Uruguay has made Latin America's largest ever seizure of European methamphetamine, marking a new phase in drug trafficking dynamics.

BRAZIL / 27 JAN 2022

Residents in Rio de Janeiro's marginalized favelas are contending with yet another massive police operation promising to deliver a true…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…