HomeNewsMilitias Fleece Locals for Basic Services in Rio Favelas

Militias Fleece Locals for Basic Services in Rio Favelas


Armed militias in many of Rio de Janeiro's favelas are setting exorbitant prices for gas cylinders and other basic goods, knowing residents have little choice but to pay up.

The average price of a gas cylinder in favelas controlled by gangs and armed militias is approximately $28, around 40 percent higher than the average price in the rest of the state, according to Brazilian news site Globo. Residents attempting to bypass the price hike and purchase cheaper gas from legal vendors may face violent reprisals.

"You can't buy gas anywhere else. You can only buy gas with the militias," a favela resident told Globo, adding that cylinders bought from different providers would be confiscated. "That's if they don't attack you because in the favela it's forbidden to buy gas from somewhere else," he said.

SEE ALSO: Gatonet - The Illegal TV Connections Bankrolling Militias in Rio

The militias – vigilante networks initially formed to combat Rio's powerful drug gangs, often comprising active and retired members of the security forces – have steadily evolved into criminal groups and gained a chokehold on a long list of basic services in the state. Aside from gas cylinders, these groups reportedly control internet and cable TV services, as well as transportation and construction businesses in many of Rio's favelas.

The militias have also usurped territories and criminal economies previously controlled by drug gangs. And according to a 2020 study by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, armed militias now control half the area of Rio De Janeiro.

InSight Crime Analysis

Militias in Rio's favelas have long filled a vacuum left by a largely absent state, stepping in to deliver services including electricity, internet, water, and even clandestine television.

But while services such as television have been sold at a lower prices – allowing militias to undercut legal providers – these groups are now taking advantage of their monopolistic territorial control to hike costs for gas cylinders. And with no other suppliers, residents of many Rio favelas are at the whim of criminal groups.

SEE ALSO: Brazil Tries to Reclaim Rio's Favelas - Ad Infinitum

In addition to controlling basic commodities, Rio militias have also set up lucrative extortion rackets targeting local businesses, car parks and real estate companies. The militias are also heavily involved the drug trade and money laundering; the groups boast a vast network of legal businesses used to conceal illicit funds.

Heavy-handed state interventions have done little to unseat these groups. Past operations have rarely targeted zones held by militias, instead opting for territory held by drug trafficking gangs.

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.


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.


Related Content

BRAZIL / 27 OCT 2020

To sell and promote their product, drug dealers in Rio de Janeiro have organized cash-prize soccer matches — in an…

BRAZIL / 8 JAN 2021

As part of a mounting campaign going after criminal finances, police in Rio de Janeiro have asked courts to seize…

BRAZIL / 8 SEP 2022

Brazil's largest gang, the PCC, could be trying to take over the marijuana business in neighboring Paraguay.

About InSight Crime


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.


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.


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 …


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…


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…