Rio police fail to catch gang leaders in operation

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 5:07 PM
Rio police fail to catch gang leaders in operation

About 200 police entered Rio de Janeiro's largest slum Tuesday, hoping to capture one of the city's most wanted drug kingpins.

Instead, after 12 hours of searching and not firing a single shot, police said they had rounded up 11 suspected foot soldiers for the drug gang that rules the Rocinha slum.

Police found about 3 tons of marijuana and confiscated nearly 60 stolen cars and 17,000 pieces of pirated goods such as movies and software. But they failed to capture any major leaders of the "Amigos dos Amigos," or Friends of the Friends, drug gang in the shantytown where more than 100,000 people live, police said in a statement. Police had been looking in particular for Antonio Lopes, known on the street as "Nem," who controls gang activities in Rocinha.

Police helicopters swooped overhead at daybreak as officers moved into the massive slum, where there are scores of known escape routes, many leading into thick jungle.

Officers met no resistance from drug gang members, prompting questions of whether word of the raid had been leaked.

In February, several police officers were caught in an internal bust, many accused of leaking information on police operations to drug gang leaders in exchange for bribes.

Tuesday's action was not meant to establish a new "pacified" slum, although security officials said Rocinha is on their list of slums they plan to pacify.

In the last two years, Rio's security forces have cleared more than 40 slums around the city and created permanent police posts in areas that have rarely seen any government presence, all in an effort to increase security before the city hosts the championship matches of the 2014 World Cup and most events of the 2016 Olympics.

The sprawling Rocinha shantytown sits on the edge of the rich Sao Conrado neighborhood and right along a key road that links Barra, where most of the Olympic events will be held, with the rest of Rio de Janeiro.