The mood is tense. A usually quiet morning in the Rio community of Rocinha is particular edgy after 200 police officers rushed into the neighborhood in what is being dubbed a massive drug operation. The police are now looking for drug trafficker Antonio Francsico Bonfim Lopes, a.k.a. Nem, who was able to escaped the police raid. It is almost certain that Nem, and members of his faction, A.D.A., were tipped off by corrupt officers, giving them ample time to move merchandise and leave the community. Residents explain the night before the raid there was heavy movement in Rocinha with motorbikes zipping up and down community hills, presumably by traffickers hiding their products and guns. As day light hit two helicopters hovered close above the community, with two armored trucks providing ground back-up. Though no deaths have been reported so far gun shot exchanges were heard. Residents say the helicopters flew so close that the windows shook violently with many fearing they would break.
Though news media and authorities are touting the seven arrests and 2 tons of confiscated marijuana, local residents are taking the news of the raid with a more doubtful eye. Many community residents are looking at the raid as nothing more than an attempt by authorities so save face in light of continued pressures to clean up Rocinha. Many of these residents are also distrustful of the raid because they feel the police who are chasing the hoodlums are on the gangsters payroll, making the raids more of a ‘staged event than a real chance to clean up the community. The view is that corruption is rampant, infiltrating all levels of the police as well as state and city politics. Many believe that police are not there to bother traffickers who pay them bribes, rather they are there to save face and usually end up pestering regular residents who don’t pay them bribes. Whether or not these sentiments speak to the reality of Rocinha, it does reflect the contentious relations between the government, the police and the citizenry they have pledged to protect.
Considering the police’s history in these communities many residents stayed home today fearing that police would take advantage of absent homes, using the excuse of the raids as a reason to search homes. Marcos, a resident of Rocinha, explained that “some residents stayed home missing work or school out of fear that their houses would be broken into by the police and their possessions stolen. That’s why I didn’t go to class today. I have all my receipts ready. Notebook, printer, speakers. Everything.”
Additional reports from today reveal that Rocinha’s black market took a big today with a reported 42 vehicles, two television station, a DVD and CD facotry and other pirated materials being confiscated. A police spokesman said this is the largest drug raid in the Rocinha, to date, and that investigations into the drug trade in Rocinha began about six months ago. Police are asking for information leading to the arrest of Nem, and 30 other persons believed to be linked to the drug trade. Police are offering a US$2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest, but considering the relationship between police and citizens, and between the hoodlums and the communities they live in, it s highly unlikely that a police will get many community driven leads.