People who come to the place where two buildings collapsed, leaving at least three dead, this Friday in Rio de Janeiro to find information about their families can tell what apartment they lived in, but little is known about the "militias" that built them and they sold them illegally.
The families that resided in the two four-story buildings, among which the three dead so far, 11 injured and more than a dozen missing, occupied them this year despite the fact that last November the Mayor of this Brazilian city seized the works and prohibited its use.
As the prosecutors, due to the threats, do not enter the areas controlled by the militias – paramilitary groups made up of police and ex-policemen – nobody stopped the works or prevented the buyers of the apartments from occupying them.
The buildings were built in an environmental reserve area, in the shadow of a steep hill and next to a precipice, for which the Mayor had warned about the high risk of landslides in the neighborhood known as Muzema.
This community, with low-middle class buildings and numerous shops, is next to Río das Pedras, the favela of the western area of the city where the militias were born and are strongest.
Muzema was controlled by a group of militiamen led by the police chief Ronald Paulo Alves Pereira, arrested last February in an operation against paramilitary groups.
The construction of houses in invaded areas, generally environmental reserves, and real estate speculation has become one of the main sources of income of these armed groups, who also charge for offering "security" to their neighbors and have a monopoly on the sale of kitchen gas pipettes and clandestine television service.
The Mayor's Office warned that since 2005 the nearly 30 buildings of the Figueras condominium, in which the tragedy occurred, are in an irregular condition and that they had already begun processes for their demolition.
In addition to the two buildings that collapsed this Friday, there are five other buildings that were evacuated for an indefinite period,
Although no authority says that the buildings were built by the militias, the few neighbors who agree to speak, with the condition of not being identified, admit that they knew about the irregularities.
"Because of the prices and lack of documentation, I knew it was not a legal apartment, but it was a good opportunity and I wanted to give my family a better life and remove it from the favela where we lived," the owner told Efe. of a property in a condominium located two streets from the place of the tragedy.
The illegal apartments are offered even on the internet, where it is possible to verify that a house with two rooms in the condominium has a cost of 25,000 reais (about 6,580 dollars), a value well below the market.
"The buildings seem solid and have different services, some even have a pool, so I never suspected that I could be in danger," added the person consulted by Efe.
The offer of housing by militia is a solution for many people who live on rent, want to leave dangerous favelas dominated by drug traffickers, do not want to go to the suburbs and can not afford the high prices of the market.
According to official statistics, the housing deficit in Brazil is about 6.35 million real estate, mostly (87.7%) concentrated in large cities.
"The invasion of land and illegal construction in areas of militias always had the complicity of authorities, although it causes tragedy for the inhabitants of poor regions," deputy Marcelo Freixo denounced on Friday, who led a legislative commission that investigated the militias in 2008.
The fight against paramilitary groups after the announced tragedy this Friday was defended by the vice president of Brazil, General Hamilton Mourao.
"We have to look for a coordinated way of acting between the different police forces so that the State can play its role and be present in those areas," he said.
"It is inadmissible that there are places that public bodies can not enter," he added.
The police major who commanded the militia in the district of Muzema is also accused of integrating the "Office of Crime", a group of militiamen who is attributed the murder last year of the councilor and human rights defender Marielle Franco , which stood out for its firm action against police and paramilitary abuses.
Carlos A. Moreno