Brazil militia leader ‘Zinho’ surrenders to police – DW – 12/25/2023

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One of Brazil’s top criminal leaders has surrendered after negotiations with local authorities, according to the country’s federal police.

Luis Antonio da Silva Braga, better known as “Zinho,” had been on the run since 2018 and is the subject of at least a dozen outstanding warrants, according to a police statement issued late Sunday.

‘Public enemy Number 1’

“Zinho” had been designated the state of Rio de Janeiro’s “public enemy Number 1.” He is now in custody awaiting trial, according to a police statement.

“After the formalities due to his arrest, the inmate was taken for medical forensics and then sent to the state’s prison system, where he will remain available for our courts,” the statement read.

On Monday, Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino hailed the arrest on X, formally known as Twitter, saying it was an “important result” following “serious and planned work being carried out in Rio de Janeiro and other states, in the fight against criminal factions.”

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Rise of the militia

Militia groups came to prominence in the South American country around four decades ago, rising up from the ranks of former police officers, soldiers, firefighters and prison guards. Initially, they were formed as community self-defense units against the threat posed by drug gangs in the city known for its violent crime.

But the militias then went on to seek “protection” money from businesses and took control of service provision to inhabitants of Rio’s impoverished  favela neighborhoods. They have in recent years expanded into drug trafficking, as well as money laundering.

The militias are said to control around 10% of Rio’s metropolitan area, according to a study last year by the non-profit Fogo Cruzado and a security-focused research group at the Fluminense Federal University.

jsi/dj (AP, dpa, AFP)

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