The link between the president’s son and a death squad

. Jan 23, 2019
flavio bolsonaro untouchables death squads president Senator-elect Flávio Bolsonaro

The Rio das Pedras militia was created midway through the year 2000. At the time, these groups were seen as a positive thing—an answer from citizens to fill a void left by the state in gang-dominated favelas. As reporter Raphael Tsavkko Garcia explained last year in his article “How armed militias became part of Rio’s everyday life,” these groups were a kind of security patrol unit acting against drug traffickers. They were made up of police officers, firefighters, and prison guards. Even the authorities supported them.

Two decades later, it is safe to say that most Brazilians have changed their minds on militias. They have proven to be as deadly and oppressive as the gangs from which they were supposed to free citizens. Militias started by “offering” protection to residents of a community. With time, they branched out to new forms of funding.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They monopolize services such as illegal cable TV, internet, furniture, transportation, water, and gas. Nothing is sold without their blessing—and without giving them a cut of the profits. Most have also controlled land within their areas of influence, employing a rarely seen kind of ruthlessness. And some, such as the Rio das Pedras militia, have gone even deeper, creating their own army of guns for hire. From Rio&#8217;s oldest militia sprouted &#8220;The Office of Crime,&#8221; arguably the deadliest and most secretive death squad in Rio de Janeiro.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Comprising former and current military police officers, &#8220;The Office&#8221; is known for its extremely well-planned assassinations, largely successful due to their connections within the corporation. Law enforcement believes their résume includes the murder of Rio councilor Marielle Franco in March 2018. The crime has yet to be solved, but recent reports say that investigators gathered evidence proving that state agents were involved.</span></p> <h2>Operation Untouchables</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On January 22, 2019, a joint force between the anti-organized crime division of the Rio de Janeiro military police and the Special Division of the state&#8217;s civil police launched an operation targeting The Office. It was named Operation Untouchables—precisely because no one, until now, had dared to investigate the group. Police ordered the arrest of 13 people believed to be at the upper echelon of the criminal organization. Among them, former officers of Bope—the Military Police Special Operations Squad, depicted in recent blockbuster movies by director José Padilha (Robocop, Narcos) as an incorruptible force.</span></p> <div id="attachment_13457" style="width: 1034px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-13457" loading="lazy" class="size-large wp-image-13457" src="" alt="untouchables death squads" width="1024" height="445" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1587w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><p id="caption-attachment-13457" class="wp-caption-text">Ronald Pereira — one of The Office of Crime&#8217;s bosses</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The investigators reached The Office by following leads found during the Marielle Franco investigation. Thirteen gunshots were fired at Ms. Franco&#8217;s vehicle. Four of them hit the politician—three in the head and one in the neck, killing her instantly. Her driver, Anderson Gomes, 39, was also killed, being shot in the back three times. A nearby surveillance camera filmed the Chevrolet Cobalt used by the murderers—which had been cloned by the gang. As the investigation continued, detectives realized they were facing the feared Office of Crime.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The group has ordered killings as its &#8220;core business&#8221; and are </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">for hire on the &#8220;deep web</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;—the umbrella name for parts of the World Wide Web whose contents are not indexed by standard web search engines. </span></p> <h2>What does Flávio Bolsonaro have to do with The Office of Crime death squad?</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Two women link former Rio state lawmaker and Senator-elect Flávio Bolsonaro to The Office: Raimunda Magalhães and Danielle Nóbrega. They were both employed by Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s office at Rio&#8217;s State Congress and happen to be the mother and wife, respectively, of a former police captain accused of being one of the heads of the gang, Adriano Magalhães da Nóbrega. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Tuesday, and he is officially considered a fugitive of justice. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Mr. Bolsonaro claims he didn&#8217;t have anything to do with their nomination. In fact, his former driver Fabrício Queiroz admitted to having requested Mr. Bolsonaro to employ the two women, as &#8220;their family was going through financial strains.&#8221; The president&#8217;s son said he didn&#8217;t know anything about the women—and Mr. Queiroz denies any link with the militia.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But that&#8217;s where the plot thickens. Ms. Magalhães, the mother of one of the militia bosses, is also involved in another scandal surrounding Flávio Bolsonaro. The Senator-elect is suspected of forcing his staff to hand over part of their salaries, a scheme that was operated by Mr. Queiroz. And one of the staffers who made financial operations consistent with the scheme is, in fact, Ms. Magalhães.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In a statement, Flávio Bolsonaro denied any wrongdoing and called himself &#8220;a victim of a smear campaign&#8221; directed at his father&#8217;s administration. </span></p> <h2>The Bolsonaros and the militias</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Over their years in politics, the Bolsonaro clan has shown support for militias. In 2003, President Jair Bolsonaro—a congressman at the time—</span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">took the stand</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the lower house to praise the work of death squads. He was responding to the remarks of a colleague, who talked about the danger of such groups in the state of Bahia.</span></p> <blockquote><p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;Until the state has the courage to adopt the death penalty, this kind of death squad is, from my point of view, very welcome. And if there&#8217;s no longer room in Bahia, send them to Rio de Janeiro. As far as I&#8217;m concerned, they will have full support, because in Rio only the innocent are decimated. In Bahia, the information I have — they are, of course, illegal groups, but my congratulations — [says] that criminality rates are down.&#8221;</span></i></p></blockquote> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Flávio Bolsonaro, the president&#8217;s eldest son, has also shown similar support. Ivanildo Terceiro, Chief Communications Officer for Students for Liberty Brazil, recalled this face on Twitter (</span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">you can follow his thread here, in Portuguese</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2011, Judge Patrícia Acioli was murdered in an ambush. She had recently convicted over 60 militia members in the region of São Gonçalo, a city on the outskirts of Rio. Flávio Bolsonaro used his Twitter feed to say: &#8220;This judge is with God, but the absurd and gratuitous way in which she humiliated police officers during hearings contributed toward her collecting enemies.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At the time, he blamed the backlash he suffered on political correctness. On January 1, during his </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">inauguration as president</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, his father promised to end that in Brazil.</span></p> <p><img loading="lazy" class="alignnone size-large wp-image-13458" src="" alt="flavio bolsonaro untouchables death squads" width="1024" height="632" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1128w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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