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The Rise of Drug Lord Nem, at the Center of the Current Clashes in Rocinha Slum

09/27/2017 - 11h47

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FERNANDA MENA
FROM SÃO PAULO

In 1999, Antônio Francisco Bonfim Lopes, a magazine delivery manager on the verge of turning 24, climbed the Rocinha hill, in the south of Rio, to speak to Lulu, Luciano Barbosa da Silva, then commander of the drug trafficking in the largest favela in Brazil

It was his last resort to get out of the R$ 20,000 (US$ 6,300) debt he had accumulated since his ten-month-old daughter had been diagnosed with a rare disease. As a guarantee for the loan he was seeking, he offered what he could: work and fidelity.

He returned home as the security agent of the hill's owner.

Thus Antônio turned into Nem, the most astute chief of Rocinha's traffic, who managed at the same time to be respected and loved by the community, who treated him as a president, to increase the cocaine trade as never before, and to avoid the most tragic and common outcome among those who occupied his post: death.

Since 2005, when he took command of the favela, Nem adopted as strategy the corruption of the police to avoid conflicts and the sponsorship of improvements in the community to win sympathy and loyalty among the residents.

According to the British journalist Misha Glenny, author of a biography of the drug lord, Nem paid daily bribes to all members of a Military Police battalion. "He did it through representatives, but he monitored everything by phone. He knew violence was bad for business," he says.

Translated by MARINA DELLA VALLE

Read the article in the original language

Reuters
Antonio Bonfim Lopes or "Nem," the alleged drug lord of the teeming Rocinha slum, is escorted by policemen at the federal police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, November 10, 2011
Antonio Bonfim Lopes or "Nem," the alleged drug lord of the teeming Rocinha slum, is escorted by policemen at the federal police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, November 10, 2011

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