Is Rio de Janeiro’s cycle of violence endless? | Drugs
On May 6, residents of Jacarezinho favela in Rio de Janeiro were awakened by the screams of tingling intestines and gunshots. Once the chaos subsided, they gathered enough courage to walk out of the house, facing dozens of bleeding corpses scattered in the narrow alleys of the slums.
What they witnessed was the aftermath of the most deadly police operation in the city to date.
In the early hours of the morning, about 200 heavily armed police officers rushed into Jacarezinho with bulletproof helicopters and armored vehicles to look for the “suspects” of the “Red Command”. The “Red Command” is a criminal group currently “managing” the slums. A few hours later, 28 people, including the police, died.
In Rio de Janeiro’s slums, violent police operations, extrajudicial executions and human rights violations approved by other countries are rare. According to the Fogo Cruzado Institute (Fogo Cruzado Institute), since 2016, at least one “massage” (a move that resulted in the killing of at least three people) has been registered in Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro since 2016. Three-quarters of them. According to reports, a massacre occurred during police operations.
However, according to Brazil’s Supreme Court, the fatal attack on Giacarecigno this month shouldn’t have happened.
In June 2020, Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin ruled that during the coronavirus pandemic, police should only operate in slums under “absolutely exceptional circumstances”.
This ruling had a direct and substantial impact on the level of violence in many slums in Rio. As of September 2020, police murders have decreased by 71% compared to the same period in 2019. But this calm did not last long. In October, one month after Acting Governor Cláudio Castro took office, the police again began regular operations in Rio de Janeiro’s slums. According to a report by the Federal University of Fluminense (UFF) research team Geni, the city was attacked on average every day for the next few months.
This upgrade reached a new peak on May 6.
That day, the police conducted an “action” in Jacarezinho, not only blatantly ignoring the Supreme Court’s ruling, but also carried out unprecedented aggression and violence. There have been reports of several summary executions, and there is even a photo showing a person’s body “placed” in a position of humiliation-presumably the person who killed him. There was no warrant when the house was searched, and one person was killed in a private house in front of an elderly relative.
Soon, at the beginning of the operation, a policeman was shot to death in the head. This led many to conclude that the police used this force to attack the slums to avenge the death of their colleagues.
But despite the Supreme Court’s decision to ban the pandemic, why should the police conduct this action in the first place during a pandemic?
The police initially claimed that the conduct of this operation was not only an investigation into drug trafficking, but also part of an investigation into other serious crimes committed by people living in slums, such as “inducing minors, murder and robbery.” However, they claimed in the report issued after the operation that the main purpose of the raid was to arrest 21 people suspected of drug trafficking. The only proof they provided about the suspected criminal behavior of these people was the photos they posted on social media that appeared to be armed with social media.
At the end of the operation, the police announced that after killing more than 20 “suspects”, they confiscated 16 pistols, 5 rifles, 1 submachine gun, 12 grenades, 2 shotguns and some ammunition. For police operations in other parts of Rio de Janeiro, this may be considered a successful result, where all criminal groups are heavily armed, and the police often confiscate large amounts of illegal weapons, but this has little news value.
All in all, it is clear that the security forces carried out this raid on Jacarezinho not because they had an “absolute exception” situation at hand that required immediate and vigorous action, but because they wanted to send a message to the residents of the slum: under control, we Decide who lives in this community and who will die.
Regrettably, this seems to be the reason behind most police operations in Rio de Janeiro in recent years. Indeed, UFF researchers analyzed more than 11,000 police operations conducted in Rio de Janeiro from 2007 to the present, and found that only 1.7% of these operations were “successful”, that is, with clear motives, few deaths, injuries, and seizure of a large number of weapons and weapons. drug.
In short, the police operation in Rio de Janeiro is not a carefully planned operation aimed at curbing violence and effectively responding to drug trafficking and other crimes, but a way for the police to show their power to scare the people into submission and pay close attention to the slums of the city.
These actions are also part of the decades-long “war on drugs” of the Brazilian authorities. However, the Brazilian government’s insistence on treating drugs as a crime rather than a public health problem does not help curb the violence of the people in Rio de Janeiro, but actually encourages such violence. Indeed, most experts agree that legalizing drugs is not only a good idea, but may be the only way to start dealing with urban violence – followed by other initiatives such as investment in education, public healthcare and infrastructure, social safety nets Construction and police reform.
However, the Rio authorities are unlikely to change their methods and start looking for new non-violent strategies to end the violent and criminal behavior of the people in the city in the near future.
This is because Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro not only turned a blind eye to the deadly, unnecessary and counterproductive police actions carried out in Rio de Janeiro’s slums, but also actively encouraged them to take action.
On May 6, the day before the operation in Jacarezinho, Bolsonaro met with the governor of Rio de Janeiro, which was obviously in support of him. After the massacre, he congratulated the city’s security forces for their actions and criticized the “media” and “leftists” for treating those killed by the police as “victims” and equating them with “ordinary, honest people who respect the law and morals”. citizen”. Their compatriots”.
It is not surprising that Bolsonaro responded positively to an operation that resulted in the deaths of more than 20 people and almost nothing. Since taking office, the President has supported the violent actions of the security forces against slum dwellers, and he collectively referred to the slum dwellers as “robbers.”
Of course, the Brazilian state tends to use more violence to deal with violence and crime in the slums, and this did not begin with Bolsonaro’s tenure.
The words and actions of the former president and state government officials also contributed to the violence in the slums. For example, former President Dilma Rousseff sent an army to occupy the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Successive governors and mayors have supported useless but deadly police operations.
Bolsonaro’s remarks portrayed thousands of poor and disadvantaged groups as “bandits” in slums who needed to be used forcefully, regardless of their human rights. However, this practice is now ensuring Brazil has fewer opportunities to break this cycle of violence.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.