Child prostitute. Brutal drug cartel leader. Cocaine addict. Popular author.
That’s the unlikely path taken by Brazilian woman Raquel Oliveira, a former cocaine boss in the Brazilian slum of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro.
“If you ask anyone here if I was a bandida [drug dealer], they will say yes,” Oliveira, in her 50s, told Vice. “People still respect me.”
It wasn’t always that way: when Oliveira was just a child, her grandmother sold her to a gang member who forced her to work in a brothel, The Daily Mail reported.
Oliveira, who details these events in the new semi-autobiographical novel A Número Um, wouldn’t see freedom from that life until she turned 11.
That’s when the gang member gave her a gun, setting her down a violent path.
Oliveira told the Mail that she made her first kill when she was 15 when a man tried to rape her.
“To kill a man aged 15 meant nothing,” she told the Mail. “The guy wanted to rape me.”
According to Vice, Oliveira led the organization after the 1988 death of Ednaldo de Souza, the organization’s leader and her lover, during a shootout with police.
The news outlet reported that Oliveira soon became a cocaine addict, but became disenchanted with her murderous and addictive lifestyle — leading her to quit in the early 1990s and seek therapy.
This year, Oliveira published A Número Um, the first in a planned trilogy based on her experiences.
A Facebook page associated with Oliveira appears to show significant crowds showing up to book signings and readings.
“I don’t think I could have done anything better. There were no alternatives. I had nothing, I knew nothing,” Oliveira, a mother of three, told the Mail. “I’m even impressed with things I’m learning today that are things I should have known a long time ago.”