In the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Pentecostal narcos are in charge

Complexo de Israel, a new drug trafficking cartel, controls some of the largest favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One of its main peculiarities is that it is a criminal group with a strong religious connotation, adhering to the neo-Pentecostal churches, that is to say the evangelical churches of Protestant Christianity also widespread in South America . At the edges of the neighborhoods where the criminal group exercises its hegemony, the flag with the Star of David – a recovered symbol of Judaism – flies and the same goes for checkpoints that prevent the police and members of rival groups from entering. in the slums.

The drug cartel was born from the alliance between historical rivals: paramilitary groups and neo-Pentecostal narco organizations. In Brazil, these churches have experienced intense development and today evangelicals represent about 27% of the population. Also called evangelical conservatives, hostile to any emancipation movement, the Brazilian neo-Pentecostals played an important role in the election of President Jair Bolsonaro in 2018 and are also very active in the electoral campaign which takes place in October with a possible second round on the 30th).

The growth of the neo-Pentecostal movement has also occurred in Brazilian prisons. Since the 1980s, evangelical churches have expanded their missionary activities within detention facilities, converting many people. But prisons are also the place where drug trafficking networks are formed and consolidated and where all the major Brazilian drug organizations were born.

Many leaders of the Terceiro Comando Puro, a group of narcos born from the breakdown of the alliance between two other groups, the Amigos dos Amigos and the Terceiro Comando, converted to neo-Pentecostalism. Converted leaders created a group called Bonde de Jesus which, initially based in the Parque Paulista neighborhood in northern Rio de Janeiro, later expanded to many other areas as well.

The Complexo de Israel was born from the alliance of these groups of converted criminals with the paramilitary group Escritorio do Crime, an organization made up of both former police officers and ex-military and police officers still in service. The group was led by a former police captain, Adriano Nóbrega, who died in a shooting on February 9, 2020, whose wife and mother worked in the offices of Flavio Bolsonaro, senator and son of the Brazilian president. Adriano Nóbrega’s deputy was Ronald Paulo Alves Pereira, known as Tartaruga or Major Ronald, decorated for particular merits by Flavio Bolsonaro, accused of being involved in the murder of Marielle Franco, sociologist, politician and left-wing activist assassinated on March 14, 2018.

Today, the criminal organization Complexo de Israel exercises control over tens of thousands of people living in the favelas. In the areas controlled by the organization, there is no longer any freedom of worship. Members of the Complexo destroyed the temples of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé and Umbanda religions and expelled their priests from the favelas. Dressing entirely in white, a practice associated with Afro-Brazilian religions, is now banned.

Areas have been littered with Stars of David, which are attributed in some ultra-split evangelical circles with a sense of supposed ethnic and religious purity associated with Judeo-Christian culture. How they rebuilt some medium Brazilians , the use of Jewish symbology is linked to the belief, propagated by some preachers, that the modern state of Israel is a sign of the expected return of Jesus to Earth. The website openDemocracy reports that in one of the bunkers in the Cidade Alta favela, north of Rio de Janeiro, along with ammunition for anti-aircraft machine guns, copies of the Torah, the holy book of Judaism, were also found.

He told the site InsightCrime political analyst and researcher specializing in the study of organized crime and gender violence in Brazil Kristina Hinz:

“The alliance between drug traffickers, evangelical churches and paramilitary groups combines the modus operandi of the drug trade, which seeks to expand into markets and territories, with a religious fundamentalism that sees non-evangelicals as followers of the devil.”

Hinz also said the alliance extended to many favelas in Rio de Janeiro “where other drug gangs have voluntarily joined the Complexo de Israel. Copies of this model have also sprung up, such as the recent attempt to create a “Complexo de Jerusalem” (Jerusalem complex) on the outskirts of the city”Some of the members of the Complexo de Israel call themselves “Jesus drug dealers”, he explained Washington Post Gilbert Stivanello, commander of the Rio de Janeiro police. “They carry guns and sell drugs, but they feel empowered to ban other religions which they say are linked to the devil.”

Complexo de Israel does not only profit from drug trafficking. In the territories it controls, the population is obliged to pay taxes for the protection of homes and businesses. Paramilitary militias also control transport, gas distribution, cable television. Evangelical churches, exempt from taxes, are then often used to launder money from drug trafficking.

The regular police, as he still writes InsightCrime, they perceive the paramilitary militias as their extension because they are mainly composed of former soldiers and former police officers. According to one estimate, nearly six million residents of Rio de Janeiro live under the control of paramilitary groups. Since 2018, only 3% of police operations in Rio de Janeiro have taken place in the territories they control.

The main rival group to the Complexo de Israel is the Vermelho Command (Red Command), once hegemonic in all of Rio de Janeiro. He was born at the end of the sixties in the prison of Candido Mendes, from the union of common criminals and militants of the Falange Vermelha, who fought the military dictatorship. Subsequently, the organization lost much of its political connotation and, like many other revolutionary groups in South America, focused its activity on drug trafficking.

Today, the Vermelho command is much weaker than it was, weakened by a years-long war with the other narco organization, the Amigos dos Amigos. The war began on October 17, 2009, when the Vermelho Command militarily invaded Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favela, the Hill of the Monkeys, hitherto controlled by the rival group.

Source: ilpost

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