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Brazilian police capture Rio druglord

The Americas Post - Even drug traffickers tell their kids to do their homework. Photo Credit: Reuters

Brazilian police on Thursday captured the most wanted narcotrafficker in Rio de Janeiro, as they took steps to occupy the largest slum in that city in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Antonio Bonfim Lopes, alleged druglord in the Rocinha neighborhood, was captured in unusual circumstances, hiding in the trunk of a luxury car belonging to a high-level diplomat from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Television images showed the 35 year-old suspect, known as “Nem”, sitting in a patrol car at the point of tears.  Authorities were quick to declare victory.

“This is a historic moment in the fight against narcotrafficking in Rio de Janeiro”, said State Security Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame.

But in a sign that corruption and partnerships between police and drug gangs continue to be a problem, three agents and two ex-cops were also arrested, together with various traffickers they were trying to help escape the slums in advance of the sweep announced by police.

Home to over 100,000 people, Rocinha rises high on a ridge overlooking some of the most exclusive neighborhoods and beaches of Rio.  It is considered the main distribution point for drugs in Brazil’s second largest city.  Dismantling that operation is the next and most ambitious step in a “pacification” program that has already expelled drug gangs from 18 marginal neighborhoods in hopes of restoring Rio to its former glory.

Police said that when a patrol stopped the car in the early morning hours, the occupants identifying themselves as the Congolese Consul and two lawyers offered them a million reales (US$570,000) to allow them to pass.  Nem, who did not resist, was taken with the others to federal police headquarters from which he sent a message to his children reminding them not to forget their schoolwork.