The Guardian

'Lesser evil': how Brazil's militias wield terror to seize power from gangs

Paramilitary groups implicated in the killing of Rio’s city councillor Marielle Franco have taken control of swaths of areas by imposing ‘violence, death and summary execution’
A favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Militias, which often includes former and serving police officers and firefighters, have taken control of swaths of Rio’s western suburbs. Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

The gunmen wore black military fatigues and ninja masks when they arrived in Seropédica, a nondescript town of 84,000 near Rio de Janeiro, and began systematically driving out the drug gangsters.

Those who refused to leave were killed.

“There were three weeks of deaths,” said one resident – who like many locals was still unwilling to be named three years later. “Many people know. They just don’t open their mouths.”

Known as “militias”, paramilitary groups – which often include former and serving police officers and firefighters – have quietly taken control of swathes of Rio’s western suburbs since they emerged in the early 2000s.

As they did in Seropédica, they commonly arrive in a neighbourhood claiming they will drive out criminals and dealers – but soon start their

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