One Family's Decade-Long Control of Rio de Janeiro's Largest Militia

With a mafia-style aesthetic, the Braga Family had brothers in leadership positions; defense denies involvement in crime

Rio de Janeiro

In an artwork posted on profiles believed to belong to militia members on social media, according to the police, is the iconic staircase from Scarface (1983), a film by Brian de Palma portraying mafia violence. Three men are depicted: one with a rifle, another with a cigar and a gold chain, and the third with a bundle of money. The phrase 'Braga Family: never surrender' accompanies the image.

According to investigators, this is a tribute to the Braga brothers: Wellington da Silva Braga, known as Ecko, Carlos da Silva Braga, known as CL or Carlinhos Três Pontes, and Luís Antônio da Silva Braga, known as Zinho, who succeeded each other in leading Rio de Janeiro's largest militia in the last decade. Out of the 833 areas listed by the Civil Police as under the influence of the militia, 812 are influenced by this group.

Image of the militia pays tribute to the Braga Family, according to the police. Credito Reproduçao

According to the Prosecutor's Office, CL combined drug trafficking and the militia from 2010 onward and was known for wearing gold chains and smoking Cuban cigars, much like Tony Montana, a character played by Al Pacino in Scarface, as stated by a police officer. The militia leader was killed in a police operation in 2017.

With CL's death, according to the police, the leadership of the militia passed to his brother, Ecko. Ecko was killed in 2021 while visiting his girlfriend. He used to wear a military police uniform, although he had never been part of the force.

Zinho then took over the leadership, according to the investigations. Until then, he was responsible for laundering money obtained through extortion and was accused of using an earthmoving company for this purpose. However, he was acquitted in court. He is currently the most sought-after militia leader.

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