Rio Police Crack Down on Militia Group

Brazilian police arrested 45 people on Thursday in connection to a militia whose activities include extorting employees of a state-run oil company and creating a secret graveyard for their victims.

(Alan Cleaver:CC BY 2.0)(Alan Cleaver:CC BY 2.0)The operation took place in Itaboraí, a suburb in eastern Rio de Janeiro, according to police. They connected the suspects with an organized crime group run by Orlando Curicica, who is currently imprisoned. 

Suspects extorted locals on their way to work at Petrobras, a state-run oil company, and monopolized access to cooking oil, according to Reuters. It’s estimated the group made 500,000 real (US$131,497.50) a month from their extortion scheme.

Police estimate the group has murdered at least 50 individuals since 2018. Police also believe the group is behind a bar massacre that left 10 dead in late January this year. Many of the group’s victims remain missing.

“They acted to intimidate the population, executing rivals, criminal rivals, often during the day,” Romulo Santos, a Rio police investigator, told journalists during a Thursday press conference.

Members of the militia are also being accused of torturing their victims before killing them. In order to hide the bodies of their rivals, the group created a secret graveyard, which police believe they’ve found. 

Each member of the militia had specific roles as business owners, leaders, managers, killers, waste pickers, soldiers or scouts. 

In Rio last year, there were a total of 5,163 violent crimes resulting in death, according to G1’s Violence Monitor. In the first four months of this year, 1,462 people have died because of violent crime.

President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged local militias and police to keep peace by killing those they suspect of criminal activities. Human Rights Watch reported that between January 2018 and November 2018, police killed 1,444 suspects.