Friday, April 16, 2004

War one way or another

It's the kind of result which no-one wants, but seems almost impossible to avoid.

Much of the attention has focused on the 15 deaths resulting on clashes between drug gangs and the police in the Rio favela of Rocinha in recent days. But only lip service has been paid to what happens now the key drug lord, Lulu, has now been killed.

The BBC coolly reports that a rival gang led by Dudu, are poised to seek control of the drug trade in Rocinha. But what they fail to note is what may well happen to residents.

Lulu could only maintain his position by buying the loyalty of local people through basic goods, services and creches which the municipal authorities failed to provide. But it was helped by the implicit threat of violence as well. Consequently most ordinary people would have lain low.

But now the new kid on the block, Dudu will be keen to root out all those who explicitly or tacitly supported the old regime. And that may mean many residents with no direct involvement in the drug trade or between wither gang may get caught in a bloody cross-fire.

What will the police do? If they engage with Dudu, more blood may be shed. And when they eventually leave (as they usually do), Rocinha will once again remain in the hands of one gang or another.

What do you think? Let me know.

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