Antonio Bonfim Lopes (R) or "Nem," the alleged drug lord of the teeming Rocinha slum, is escorted by policemen at the federal police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro November 10, 2011. Police captured "Nem", one of Rio's most-wanted drug traffickers on Thursday as they prepared to occupy the Brazilian city's largest slum, a vital step in preparations to host the Olympic Games in 2016.
Photograph by: Stringer, Reuters
Rio De Janeiro's most wanted drugs baron, who controlled the drug trade in South America's biggest favela with fear and intimidation for 30 years, has been arrested after a high risk undercover police operation.
Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, known as Nem, was captured after being discovered hiding in the boot of a car stopped at a roadblock, as police surrounded the sprawling Rocinha shanty-town in an attempt finally to wrest back control of the area.
Pictures showed Lopes, 35, looking anguished in handcuffs as he was led to an armoured vehicle by heavily-armed police following his arrest at around midnight on Wednesday. Brazilian police said the man driving the car had claimed to be a Congolese diplomat in an attempt to avoid the vehicle being searched before the occupants offered a bribe of one million Brazilian reais (pounds 357,000) for police to let them go.
Residents of Rocinha and wealthy neighbouring districts alike were gripped by fear amid concerns that the operation could lead to open street battles between police and criminal gangs armed with machine guns, assault rifles and grenades.
Twelve families were reportedly forced from their houses in the night by gang members who wanted to use them as hideouts, while children who attend schools in the area were being excused from lessons. Members of the military police's elite Special Operations Battalion and federal police agents have flooded the area as they attempt to restore order to lawless districts before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Police said undercover officers had infiltrated the favela 10 days ago to gather intelligence.
Some favelas, such as Rocinha, which lies next to the wealthy residential neighbourhood of Gavea, have been controlled by gangs for decades with police entering only to make occasional raids which often end in fatal shoot-outs.
Lopes was considered the most wanted drug dealer in Rio, a city whose picture postcard image of sun, sand and sea has long been tarnished by drug-related gang warfare on its streets.
In August this year a court in Rio sentenced him to eight years and four months in prison for drug trafficking in his absence.
He was found in the boot of a Toyota Corolla containing three other men stopped at a roadblock by military police just outside Rocinha.
The driver at first claimed he was the honorary consul for the Congo in Brazil and told police they could not search the car as he had diplomatic immunity.
However, federal police arrived and carried out an inspection, finding Lopes hidden in the boot with a large sum of money.
His capture came hours after three current and two former police officers were arrested nearby, allegedly attempting to smuggle other gang members out of the area.
Lopes, a member of Amigos dos Amigos, one of Rio's three main drugs gangs, is alleged to have controlled the drug trade in Rocinha since 2005.
He gained notoriety across Brazil last year when he and other gang members invaded Rio's Hotel Intercontinental to take guests hostage as they escaped following a shoot-out with police.
A police "pacification unit" is expected to be installed in Rocinha, which has an estimated population of 150,000 crammed into its hillside shacks, on Sunday.
In November last year, Rio's authorities took control of the Complexo do Alemao network of favelas after a week of violence that saw police and soldiers battling drugs gangs of up to 600 men.
BY ROBIN YAPP, THE DAILY TELEGRAPHNOVEMBER 10, 2011
© Copyright (c) The Daily Telegraph
Source: Times Colonist
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