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Tue Dec 25, 2018, 02:46 AM

'Like a cancer:' Rio militias grow, control swaths of city

Peter Prengaman and Sergio Ramalho, Associated Press
Updated 4:01 pm CST, Monday, December 24, 2018



Photo: Leo Correa, AP
IMAGE 1 OF 25
In this Aug. 24, 2018 photo, packs of illegal cigarettes stand for sale at a market in the Realengo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Militias buy boxes of cigarettes in Paraguay for 14 cents a pack and then smuggle them home and sell them for up to $2.15, giving the groups the lion's share of an estimated $330 million in profits and add to a portfolio of illicit operations the groups have honed over two decades.


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The latest scheme works like this: Brazilian paramilitary groups buy boxes of cigarettes in neighboring Paraguay for 14 cents a pack and then smuggle them back home, where prices and taxes are much higher, and sell them for up to $2.15.

The cigarettes offer the militias the lion's share of an estimated $330 million in profits and add to a portfolio of illicit operations the groups have honed over two decades, including imposing surcharges on cable service, electricity and transportation. The groups are also known to conduct extortion and summary executions.

But while investigating the smuggled smokes, authorities found other evidence they deemed more troubling: cameras, online monitoring systems and signs of possible connections between militias and members of Red Command, Rio de Janeiro's most powerful drug gang.

. . .

Beginning in earnest in the 1990s, the militias were mainly made up of former police officers, firefighters and military men who wanted to combat lawlessness in their neighborhoods. For years, they were even lauded by politicians, including President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who as a congressman called for their legalization in 2008.

More:
https://www.chron.com/news/crime/article/Like-a-cancer-Rio-militias-grow-control-13488130.php

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