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Drug Leader Killed After Daring Army to Invade Shantytown

November 6, 1994

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ The crime boss called Macaroni dared the army to bring its anti-drug crackdown to his hillside shantytown. Fellow drug lords killed him for it.

The bullet-riddled body of Sergio ″Macarrao,″ found Saturday in a stolen car near his Nova Brasilia slum, was a powerful sign of gangland tensions as soldiers prepare to fight skyrocketing crime in Rio, where 20 people are slain every day.

″This was definitely an inside job. Drug bosses handled the problem the best way they knew,″ said police agent Ivan Camargo.

On Friday, ″Macarrao,″ whose real name was not given by police or news accounts, sent the army a taunting note, daring it to invade Nova Brasilia, according to Rio newspapers.

″Drug traffickers are fighting among themselves for key sites,″ said Camargo. ″They don’t want to battle law enforcement, as they have enough of their own problems to handle.″

The army says it will take action after a Nov. 15 runoff election for Rio de Janeiro state governor. Both candidates are promising to launch a law-and- order crusade.

The army was ordered into action after spiralling crime convinced Rio residents their police had lost control of the city.

A poll of Rio residents released Sunday found 82 percent of respondents support using the army against crime in this seaside city of 6 million people. The Vox Populi Polling Institute said it surveyed 1,323 people, and the margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A poll last week found 85 percent of Rio residents thought their city was dangerous.

On Saturday, a body was thrown from a speeding car just two blocks from the governor’s palace, and a police shootout with drug traffickers at a farmers’ market killed a trafficker and a vendor. Gang members forced shops to close Thursday in an inner-city neighborhood for the funeral of a drug boss who died of a heart attack.

Soldiers are building barricades of sandbags around army barracks and hospitals to guard against revenge attacks. The army is letting its soldiers grow their hair long to make them inconspicuous after gunmen murdered a lieutenant.

Police in neighboring states are preparing to intercept a flood of criminals fleeing the crackdown.

In Sao Paulo, 250 miles to the west, a shantytown leader issued a warning to out-of-town criminals.

″If Rio hoods come invading our space, they’ll be greeted with gunfire,″ Nelson Alvim, president of the Sao Rafael shantytown Dwellers Association, told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

As many as 50,000 soldiers will patrol Rio de Janeiro during the Nov. 15 election to prevent vote fraud.

The army’s first task will be to replace state police commanders suspected of corruption. The army says it already has undercover agents working among the state police and state troopers.

News accounts say as many as 70 percent of Rio police are linked to crime gangs. President-elect Fernando Henrique Cardoso has repeated that figure and denounced the ″contamination of Rio state police by organized crime.″

Update hourly