Rio de Janeiro faces worsening levels of violence – often perpetrated by the police. This single factor has prompted the disastrous economic and financial situation in the city today.
Moisés Pérez Mok
According to the National Confederation of Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC), revenues from tourism fell by BRL 320 million in the first four months of the year “due to criminality,” while another BRL 390 million were lost due to unemployment, a lack of credit and Brazil’s burgeoning international expenses.
Meanwhile, in mid-June, during the winter holidays in the Southern Cone of America (the region of origin for most of Brazil’s tourists), the Barra de Tijuca hotel complex – to cite just one example – barely reached 8% occupancy. Undoubtedly, this has a lot to do with the alarming rate of crime in Rio de Janeiro, which was identified as Brazil’s most violent state between 2011 and 2015, with more violent deaths recorded there than in war-torn Syria.
Brazil’s public safety records for this period show that there were 278,839 instances of intentional homicide, robbery and fatal bodily harm, whereas 256,124 violent deaths were recorded in Syria.
As recently as 2015, according to Renato Sérgio Lima, executive director of the Brazilian Public Safety Forum, there were 58,383 Brazilian victims of violent and intentional murder, which means that one person was murdered, on average, every nine minutes, and there was an average of 160 deaths per day. In other words, there were 28.6 victims for every 100,000 people.
Of these violent deaths, over 3,300 were caused by police intervention. In other words, at least nine people were murdered by the Brazilian police every day, resulting in a police fatality rate of 1.6 deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants. This was considerably higher than the rate in countries such as Honduras (1.2) and South Africa (1.1).
On the other hand, the number of police officers who are murdered in the line of duty and while off duty is also high in Brazil. In 2015, 393 police officers were murdered; so far in 2017, 91 members of the military police force have been killed in Rio de Janeiro alone. In this organisation, 723 homicides were reported in the first half of this year, which was 10.2% higher than the same period in 2016. There were 138 instances of robbery resulting in death, which represents a 21.2% increase on last year.
However, the most significant increase related to murders resulting from “acts of resistance”: the number of reported cases rose from 400 to 581, a hike of 45.3%.
The government of Michel Temer chose to address this situation with militarisation. Thus, on 28 July, he set in motion the “Security and Peace” operation in Rio, involving over 10,000 members of the armed forces, national public security force and federal highway police.
The objective, according to defence minister Raul Jungmann, was to “combat organised crime and eliminate its operational capability” – a task, he admitted, that would “cause a reaction” (more deaths and violence), but from which he insisted they “would not back down”. The ostentatious deployment of troops was supported by a Law and Order Guarantee (GLO) decree issued by Temer, valid from 28 July to 31 December; the dates were purely a budgetary matter, as the operation will continue until the end of 2018.
The military occupation of Rio de Janeiro ordered by Temer is hardly a trial that could be rolled out to other Brazilian states, warns political scientist Jorge Rubem Folena de Oliveira.
De Oliveira stresses that, “Temer and his associates will not easily surrender the power” that they have gained over the past year in a coup that has proved very costly for nascent Brazilian democracy.
“Regarding Rio de Janeiro and the other Brazilian states,” says De Oliveira, “the rise in urban violence is linked to increasing poverty levels and public funding cuts promoted by the failed Temer government over the past year.
These are political, economic and social causes and the army is not best placed to eliminate them.”
In the final report it recently presented, the parliamentary commission investigating the murders of young people in Brazil, led by senator Lindbergh Farias from the Workers’ Party, recognised the major influence of the so-called “war on drugs” on the falls in the young, black population.
“Our workers,” he states, “have revealed the fatal violence faced by young people, demonstrating that the acts of the public security forces, and of the civil and military police in particular, must be reimagined in the face of a cruel and undeniable reality: the Brazilian state, directly or indirectly, is causing the genocide of the young, black population.” (PL)
Photos: Pixabay – (Translated by Roz Harvey)