‘Play­boy’s’ reign of terror over, but Rio still on edge

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SE­BAS­TIAN SMITH

Rio de Janeiro of­fi­cials cel­e­brated Mon­day the death of “Play­boy,” a bru­tal gang leader fa­mous for thumb­ing his nose at the author­i­ties — yet his killing left new ques­tions unan­swered.

The gang boss, whose real name was Celso Pin­heiro Pi­menta, ruled over a law­less slum, or favela, called Morro da Pe­dreira, con­trol­ing a ring deal­ing in drugs, stolen ve­hi­cles and weapons.

On Satur­day, dozens of elite po­lice struck, de­ploy­ing ar­mored ve­hi­cles and a he­li­copter to cor­ner the man known uni­ver­sally as Play­boy.

Of­fi­cials say they found him in a girl­friend’s house and that, af­ter his four body­guards fled, he at­tempted to shoot at po­lice with a Glock pis­tol and was him­self fa­tally wounded.

“It was a to­tal suc­cess, a sur­gi­cal op­er­a­tion,” said fed­eral po­lice of­fi­cer Car­los Ed­uardo An­tunes Thome in an in­ter­view Mon­day on Globo tele­vi­sion.

The 33-year-old was long one of Rio’s most wanted men. DisqueDenu­cia, which runs a hot­line with re­wards for in­for­ma­tion on crim­i­nals, put a 50,000 reais (US$14,200) price on Play­boy — a for­tune in a coun­try where the min­i­mum monthly wage is around US$230.

How­ever,

Play­boy’s dra­matic re­moval from the scene high­lighted se­cu­rity prob­lems fac­ing Rio a year be­fore the city hosts the 2016 Olympics.

Po­lice an­nounced they were send­ing re­in­force­ments into Pe­dreira, but 48 hours later the neigh­bor­hood re­mained on edge, with schools closed over se­cu­rity con­cerns and some 6,000 chil­dren forced to stay home.

Hun­dreds of gun­men are be­lieved to have been loyal to Pin­heiro and Rio state Gov. Luiz Fer­nando Pezao said they would now be sub­jected to “a big siege.”

The gang mem­bers, how­ever, have sur­vived many a pre­vi­ous po­lice cam­paign and al­ready Mon­day anony­mous threats of re­venge were cir­cu­lat­ing on so­cial media.

“The goal this week is to kill 50 po­lice,” one man pur­port­ing to be from a gang said in a record­ing car­ried by O Dia news site. “The death of Play­boy won’t be left like that — it will be a week of terror in Rio de Janeiro.”

Look­ing to Sur­ren­der?

Rel­a­tives of Play­boy claim he was try­ing to sur­ren­der and was killed in cold blood.

“The truth is that he was mur­dered,” the dead man’s un­cle, Cosme Pin­heiro, told lo­cal media.

Thome de­nied this, telling na­tional tele­vi­sion that he was shot le­git­i­mately and “im­me­di­ately res- cued” and taken to hos­pi­tal.

Pho­to­graphs leaked to the lo­cal media show Play­boy with at least one bullet wound in his chest ly­ing by him­self on the floor of a house, although there is no way of know­ing whether he re­mained alive at that mo­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, one in six killings in Rio over the last five years have been at the hands of po­lice, which the rights group ac­cuses of “ex­tra­ju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions” — a charge the po­lice strongly deny.

Con­victed of traf­fick­ing, rob­bery and mur­der, Play­boy was twice im­pris­oned but es­caped the sec­ond time.

He had re­port­edly been ne­go­ti­at­ing right be­fore his death to ally his Ami­gos dos Ami­gos (ADA) group with the Comando Ver­melho gang and to ex­pand oper­a­tions into neigh­bor­ing ter­ri­tory.

If this had worked it would have sig­naled a new chap­ter in a ca­reer that saw him mix bru­tal­ity with a love of pub­lic­ity.

He was be­lieved to be be­hind a stunt in which four gang­sters broke into a sports cen­ter and posed in the swimming pool with au­to­matic weapons, pos­si­bly mim­ick­ing syn­chro­nized swim­mers.

“It’s Play­boy talk­ing to you,” a voice says in the widely dis­trib­uted so­cial media post. “I loved the swimming pool!”

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