I would like to thank all of you for your kind and encouraging words. It gives me more motivation to write knowing that people are actually reading it.
The leadership of ADA (Amigos Das Amigos) have all either fled shamelessly (with the assistance of corrupt police) or been captured. The number one guy, Nem, was caught trying to flee late last night. The only traffickers left in Vidigal and Rocinha are low level dealers and managers. The Policia Militar and the UPP (Pacification Police) have blocked every exit from Rocinha and Vidigal. All last night there was a helicopter flying at a low level. The government has been making a show of force and it has worked.
These small guys have no formal training and little strategic sense. They are scared shitless and have no escape. When BOPE, an elite military unit, invades on Sunday there will be no major confrontation. Possibly there will be small scale clashes in Rocinha when the macho ones try to resist arrest.
Although each of these traficantes chose the life that they lead, there is more to it than just this. The people who grow up in the favela have few opportunities. What opportunities that do exist are in menial jobs, sweeping streets and collecting garbage. Of course not all residents in the favela are poor, but most are. Most of these guys are just young underemployed men who find themselves in a difficult situation. What complicates the situation even more is that most of the gang members come from the community and have friends and family among the community.
The traficante who I see most often has a post near to the area I have been living in. The first time I met him was watching the sunrise over RIo after a party I had gone to in Vidigal. As the sun slowly rised over the neighboring city of Niteroi, I asked him why he chose the life he did, my tongue lubricated by the previous night of moderate drinking. The gun in his hand did not deter me. I will never forget his response. Several years ago, he needed an operation to fix something in his stomach (my Portuguese wasn’t good enough to find out exactly what it was). He did not have the right documentation or resources to receive the operation. The only people he could turn to for help were the traffickers. They gave him what he needed and in return he started working for them. Although anecdotes are an inadequate form of formulating truth, my intuition tells me that this type of tale is not uncommon.
I am not excusing the traffickers choices. There are always other options and the other residents of the favela who did not pick up guns are a testament to that. I just want to remind everyone that when Sunday comes around and the police come in here and put the traffickers in a cell or in a casket, these small guys are not faceless drug dealers, but real people with hard lives and difficult decisions. They should not escape punishment, but the punishment should reflect the reality of the lot they have been given.