When two thousand Brazilian cops mounted a massive assault on some of Rio's most dangerous slums, they made a chilling discovery. I'm not talking about the bloody remnants of the preceding week of violent gang clashes. Or the six tons of marijuana, or the caches of assault weapons. No, they found something in the bizarre shanty mansion of notorious drug lord Luciano Martiniano da Silva — or "Pezão," as he's popularly known — that was much more sinister: a crude, hand-painted mural of Canadian ultratwink Justin Bieber.
Dozens of news stories have made mention of the mural, and it's been popping up on blogs and fan sites all week. Most everyone has played it for guffaws as a human-interest story. I'm guessing that's because any serious attempt to figure out why a Brazilian drug lord would have a Justin Bieber mural in his house would be an idiotic waste of time. Well, dear readers, you've once again found your idiot.
First, some details on the mural itself. Although many have noted that it depicts Justin Bieber, there's slightly more to it. The thing is not just a portrait but a re-creation of the cover art of his debut single, "One Time." The track was a minor hit in Brazil, charting at #70 on the Billboard Brasil Hot 100. Since then, Bieber has skyrocketed to much greater fame in Brazil, eventually reaching diamond certification for My World sales — that's only 300,000 copies down there, but still impressive. Perhaps there's something to the choice of "One Time": it captures that aspirational spirit of a small-town boy making it big for the first time. Just as musicians have Scarface posters on their walls in every episode of MTV Cribs, maybe drug kingpins find inspiration in the story of Justin Bieber's rise to the top. Like Pezão, Bieber came from poverty and worked his way up. Maybe he wasn't as ruthless as a Rio drug lord, but he was accused of punching a kid at that Laser Tag place.
The mural also has two large holes in it, one on either side of Bieb's face. According to a story on gizmodo.com, "Pezão destroyed walls in his residence to extract hidden drugs, money, and diverse weaponry before running away from the government invasion." That's right: there may have been drugs and guns hidden inside Justin Bieber. Pezão may have used Bieber's unimpeachable little angel mug to conceal his deadly secrets.
What's more, the Bieber mural isn't the whole story. A videotaped walk-through of Pezão's manse reveals that the mural is just one piece of a Bieber-themed room. There's also a Bieber poster and an even more striking piece of custom art: the words "Justin Bieber" are writ huge on the opposite wall, graffiti-style, surrounded by bright colors and little hearts. There goes the Scarface angle, I guess — the hearts are a little much for a gesture of hood respect.
After digging around a little and finding a profile of Pezão on a Brazilian "most wanted fugitives" site, I may have discovered a more serious answer. To judge from my rough translation, Pez was pretty hip to the local youth culture. In notorious Rio drug tradition, he had plenty of youngsters in his employ: