|Antonio Bonfim Lopes’ capture is part of a plan by Rio de janeiro authorities to combat crime in the city ahead of the World Wup and Olympic Games to be held in Rio [EPA]
The most wanted drug kingpin in Rio’s largest slum has been caught hiding in the trunk of a car as dozens of crack police tighten their noose ahead of an imminent assault to take control of the Rocinha favela.
Antonio Bonfim Lopes, also known as “Nem” and considered one of the city’s most wanted criminals, was arrested on Thursday as he tried to flee the shantytown which had been controlled by narcotraffickers for the past 30 years.
Lopes, who is wanted on charges of drug trafficiking, kidnapping, money laundering, and murder, is the head of the “Friends of Friends” drug gang that control a drug distribution point.
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Sao Paulo, said Lopes’ capture was “a major victory for police.”
The “Friends of Friends” gang is said to be responsbile for a multi-million dollar a month drug trade in Rio’s largest favela.
“The gang is being dismantled, and this is a good moment for law-abiding citizens who want to see their children living in peace to pass information on where criminals, guns and drugs are hidden,” said Alberto Pinheiro Neto, head of operations for Rio state police.
Federal police inspector, Victor Poubel, said the other occupants of vehicle attempted to bribe police twice before opening the trunk. When discovered, Lopes did not resist arrest.
Lopes’ capture comes at a time when police in the Olympic City prepare to squelch crime in Rochina ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, both to be held in Brazil’s second largest city.
At a press conference on Thursday, Rio state police said they are planning an on-going operation to take back the shantytown of 100,000 people and are calling for the assistance of the local population in Rochina.
They said they planned to occupy Rocinha in the coming days and that gang members were trying to escape any way they could.
Rio state Governor Sergio Cabral, in a television interview on Thursday, hailed Nem’s capture as “another major step to bring peace to residents of Rocinha and Vidigal” and said the drive to pacify the two favelas would be completed “by the end of the week.”