RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio de Janeiro’s most-wanted drug trafficker and the alleged leader of a gang involved in a months-long turf war in the city’s largest shantytown, Rocinha, was arrested early Wednesday in a Brazilian police and army operation.
Rogerio Avelino de Souza, known as “Rogerio 157,” was detained at a woman’s home in the Arara “favela,” located in Rio’s port zone, the regional Public Safety Secretariat said.
He was wanted on charges of homicide, drug trafficking and criminal conspiracy.
Rogerio 157 was arrested as part of a crackdown in which 2,900 Rio police officers and members of Brazil’s armed forces sought to carry out arrest warrants against drug traffickers in four of the city’s favelas.
The operation led to an intense gun battle in Rocinha, where Rogerio 157’s gang controls the local drug trade.
In September, an attempt by a rival gang to invade Rocinha sparked a turf war that is blamed for several deaths and shootouts in that south-side shantytown.
The military has responded to those clashes by occupying Rocinha twice this year, the first time with the deployment of 1,100 army soldiers on Sept. 22.
Besides the police and military action in Arara, security forces also sought to carry out arrest warrants for suspected drug traffickers hiding out in three other north-side favelas: Mangueira, Tuiuti and Mandela.
In recent weeks, Brazil’s armed forces have participated in different operations in various Rio favelas beset by a surge in violent crime dating back to the 2016 Olympics.
Some 10,000 soldiers have been deployed to bolster security in Rio and are scheduled to remain there until late 2018.
Around 4,000 people, including 124 police officers, have been the victims of violent deaths in Rio de Janeiro state thus far this year, according to civil organizations,
The public safety crisis in Rio erupted amid different corruption scandals that have landed the last three state governors behind bars and severe economic problems that forced regional authorities to declare a financial state of calamity (bankruptcy) shortly before the inauguration of last year’s Summer Games.