Luiz Antônio da Silva Braga, better known as Zinho, is the main leader of the largest group of militiamen in the state of Rio de Janeiro. He had 12 arrest warrants issued and had been on the run since 2018, according to the Federal Police.

After the formalities resulting from his arrest, Zinho was taken to the Legal Medical Institute and, later, sent to the state prison system, the Federal Police reported.

Militias emerged in the 1990s, being formed mainly by former police officers, firefighters and soldiers who wanted to combat illegality in the neighborhoods. They charged residents for protection and other services, more recently operating in drug trafficking.

Zinho’s group dominates the west zone of Rio de Janeiro, where several members have been killed in recent years.

The executive secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Ricardo Cappelli, said, on social media, that the Federal Police carried out several investigations until reaching Zinho.

“It’s work, work and work”, wrote Capelli on the social network X (formerly Twitter).

Zinho’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press news agency.

Militias are believed to control about 10% of the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area, according to a study carried out last year by the non-profit institute Fogo Cruzado and a security-focused research group at Universidade Federal Fluminense. .

The militias are different from the drug trafficking gangs that control important areas of Rio.

The area dominated by Zinho’s group was in the news in October, when militia members set fire to at least 35 buses in apparent retaliation for the police killing of one of their leaders. The attack occurred far from Rio’s tourist areas and caused no casualties, but showed the militias’ ability to cause chaos and damage.

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