Rio de Janeiro | Parapolice militias control more than half of Rio de Janeiro’s territory, sowing terror in working-class neighborhoods where nearly 2.2 million Brazilians live, according to a study released Monday.
The stranglehold of these extremely violent criminal groups which practice all types of extortion extended in 2019 to 57.5% of the total area of the city, in 41 neighborhoods where nearly a third of the population live (33.1 %).
This unprecedented study, the fruit of a partnership between two universities, two independent digital platforms and a public crime denunciation body, shows a “Map of Armed Groups” on which the militias have largely taken over the drug trafficking groups.
On the map, the blue dots, representing these militias, occupy the entire western part of Rio, where they were born, but they are also increasingly visible in the North, an area traditionally under the yoke of the narcos that dominate the favelas.
“The extension of the domination of the Rio militias is impressive as they began to organize in their current form in the early 2000s, when factions of drug traffickers like Comando Vermelho emerged in the 1970s” , explain the authors of the study in a press release.
Composed mostly of former members of the security forces, the militias initially appeared as an alternative to the police in the fight against drug trafficking.
But they quickly organized themselves like mafias, with sophisticated systems of extortion, controlling services such as gas distribution, the Internet, local transport or cable television.
More recently, some militias have started to grab land illegally to build popular housing without planning permission. Two of these buildings collapsed in April 2019, killing more than 20 people.
This study was carried out by the Study Group on New Illegalities (Gini) of the Federal University of Fluminense (UFF), a Study Group on Violence (NEV) of the University of Sao Paulo (USP), with the collaboration of the digital platforms Fogo Cruzado and Pista News.
The researchers also used data from Disque Denuncia, a public service for anonymous reporting of criminal activity.
On Friday, 12 suspected militia members were killed by police in a shootout on a road in the western suburbs of Rio.
They had been monitored for several weeks by a special unit of the Rio police created after the assassination of two municipal candidates in November in the northern suburbs.
The main suspects in the assassination of black city councilor Marielle Franco in March 2018 are suspected militia members.