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Rio Cops: Drug Lord Killed Reporter

June 10, 2002

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ An undercover TV journalist reporting on crime and drugs in Rio de Janeiro’s shantytowns was tortured and put to death with a sword by a drug lord who runs his territory like a medieval fiefdom, police said Monday.

Tim Lopes of Globo television was captured June 2 as he tried to infiltrate a dance party in the Vila Cruzeiro shantytown in northern Rio, where gangs sold drugs and staged illicit sex shows.

Lopes, 50, was taken to a nearby shantytown, Favela da Grota, where he was shot in the feet, brutally beaten and killed with a Samurai-style sword by drug baron Elias Pereira da Silva, known as Elias Maluco, or Mad Elias, police said. Gang members then burned Lopes’ body.

Police Chief Zaqueu Teixeira said his forces had confirmed details of the killing from two members of Silva’s gang who were arrested Sunday in Vila Cruzeiro, Fernando Satiro da Silva and Reinaldo Amaral. Anonymous calls to the police last week contained similar details.

More than 40 officers were searching the shantytown Monday for Lopes’ remains. A charred body was found last week and is undergoing DNA tests. Video film was found next to the body but Globo said it was not a type used by their reporters.

Lopes, a prize-winning reporter who brought together murderers and relatives of their victims on a prime-time weekend news show, had already angered drug lords this year by filming and broadcasting images of an open air drug bazaar in another slum.

In a statement, Globo chief editor Carlos Henrique Schroeder said: ``Tim died defending a population who lives helplessly under the terror of drug trafficking and organized crime.″

Lopes was investigating so-called ``funk″ dance-parties in slums after hearing complaints about the parties that involve open drug abuse and explicit sex, Schroeder said.

According to the two detained gang members, Silva insisted on killing Lopes personally.

Most of Rio’s shantytowns are ruled by drug lords like fiefdoms. Violence and gang shoot-outs are everyday occurrences and, as a result, Brazil has one of the world’s highest homicide rates.

``Organized crime is gaining space where the state isn’t present,″ opposition congressman Orlando Fantazzini said.

Brazil’s Association of Newspapers called Lopes’ slaying ``the manifestation of a cancer in the midst of the community.″

Hundreds of journalists marched through Rio’s streets last week demanding greater protection.

Brazil’s press noted that Mad Elias was arrested in 1996, but released on bail in 2000.

Between 1995 and 1998, seven journalists were killed on the job in Brazil, but Lopes’ dead is the first recorded since then.

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