Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora: The Honeymoon is Over

 Andrew Fishman Rio Radar, 09/28/2011

Linha Vermelha, Zona Norte, Rio de Janeiro

The initial idea behind Rio Radar was to create a simple, easily accessible English-language resource about public security in Rio de Janeiro that agglomerated Portuguese-language voices and sources with a minimal imposition of my own voice and biases. After nine months living in Rio de Janeiro, the grant that made Rio Radar possible is coming to an end and I will be returning to Washington DC. Rio Radar will mostly likely continue to produce content with the help of Zoë Roller and Katie Judd, but I have decided to break the model and write a summary analysis of what I’ve ascertained about public security in Rio de Janeiro from all of the research, articles, conversations, and interviews that I have consumed over the past year. Modern public security issues in Rio de Janeiro could fill a small library, so I will try to summarize as best I can and focus mainly on “pacification.”

“We are not occupying favela. Criminals occupy, we are retaking these areas that were occupied by these marginal figures and returning them to the honest residents. The UPPs will remain in the communities forever.”

–Gov. Sérgio Cabral

The four major concepts in Rio’s current public security situation are: corruption, militias, drug trafficking, and Police Pacification Units (UPPs). While corruption appears to be the most prolific and troubling problem, militias the fastest growing, and drug trafficking the most ostensive and subversive, from 2008-10, the UPPs garnered the most media attention domestically and internationally because of their novelty and because of bold claims by Governor Cabral, Security Secretary Beltrame, and other establishment voices. As Secretary Beltrame said, “The idea is simple: to reestablish control over territories lost to traffic dealers.” And what better excuse is there to lubricate the lethargic gears of bureaucracy than the arrival of the two largest sporting events in the world in a six to eight year purview?

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