Correcting Brazil’s police violence: the case of Rio’s Pacifying Police Units

December 19, 2014

Layne Vandenberg – Brazil Institute, 12/18/2014


Widespread protests against police violence and racism have recently scattered the United States after the release of the Ferguson (Michael Brown) and Eric Garner grand jury decisions. While Americans grapple with the reality of police violence, other countries live deeply entrenched in this reality. Scholar Ignácio Cano says there is “a Ferguson every day” in Brazil, and the state of Rio de Janeiro has been trying out a new policing strategy in hopes of improving community-police relations in its slums, called favelas.

Between 2009 and 2013, Brazilian police killed more than 11,000 people, or about six people per day. The 2014 edition of the Brazil Public Security Yearbook also found that 53,646 homicides occurred in 2013, or one person every 10 minutes.

With the highest per capita rate of killing of any Brazilian state and 6,826 homicides per year between 1991 and 2007, the state of Rio de Janeiro is “comparable with urban areas of countries in civil war.” But Rio needed a quick solution for its violent reputation among the international crowd. Rio is home to Maracanã stadium, where several 2014 FIFA World Cup matches, including the final, were held and the city is the host of the upcoming 2016 Olympic games. So how do you change the face of a city and a state in time for the world’s two largest sporting events?

The Rio state government’s solution: pacification.

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Second Presidential Debate in Brazil’s Second Round Election Runoff

October 16, 2014

Layne Vandenberg – Brazil Institute, 10/16/2014

Presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves

Presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves

The second set of presidential debates between the incumbent President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) and Aécio Neves of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB) takes place tonight. This debate, following the first one last Tuesday (10/14), will hopefully begin to turn the tides of Brazilian voters in what Mauro Paulino, a Datafolha pollster, says is one of the most unpredictable elections in Brazil’s history.

After the first round of voting on October 5th, the candidates were narrowed down to two: Dilma Rousseff, who received 41.5% of the votes, and Aécio Neves, who received 31.5%. Third place runner-up, Marina Silva (PSB), who was anticipated to advance to the second round along with Rousseff because of her rapid rise after the death of Eduardo Campos, was left with only 21.3%. This past Sunday, Silva officially endorsed Neves, possibly posing herself as king maker of the election. Rousseff and Neves will compete in a second round runoff election on October 26th to determine the presidency. Read the rest of this entry »

A vulnerable Rousseff will face a surging Neves in the final round

October 7, 2014

Paulo Sotero – Brazil Institute, 10/06/2014

Marina Silva, signaling support for the president’s opponent, could be the king maker

President Dilma Rousseff failed to secure an absolute majority of votes in the first ballot of Brazil’s elections and will face senator Aécio Neves, a popular former governor of the state of Minas Gerais, in a final round scheduled for Sunday October 26. Rousseff received 41.5% of the record 115 million votes cast, a weaker performance compared to the votes she received and thather predecessor President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received in the first round of the previous three presidential election won by the Workers Party (PT). Neves, of the Social Democratic Party (PSDB) of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, surged in the final week of the campaign to obtain 33.5% of the votes and position himself as a strong challenger to Rousseff. Former senator Marina Silva, an environmentalist who led for a while in opinion polls, finished a distant third with 21.3% but may be the deciding voice in the race’s outcome.

Speaking to supporters Sunday evening, Marina, who remained neutral in 2010 when she ran for the Green Party and also came in third, indicated she will endorse Neves’ candidacy. “Brazil has signaled since 2010 it clearly disagrees with what we have,” she said, referring to the rule of the Workers’ Party, which was her political home for more than a quarter century.

Rousseff won in fifteen of Brazil’s 27 states, including in Neves’ Minas Gerais, by a narrow margin. Analysts attributed this result, however, more to the popularity of the Workers’ Party candidate for state governor, Fernando Pimentel, a former mayor of the capital city of Belo Horizonte, than to Rousseff’s performance. In September, Pimentel’s campaign removed the president’s picture from his ads, fearing the association with Rousseff would reduce his favoritism. The PSDB gubernatorial candidate , João Pimenta da Veiga, a dull politician, did not generate much enthusiasm among voters. In contrast, Neves’ campaign manager, former two-term governor Antonio Anastasia, was easily elected to the Senate, beating Josué Alencar , by a two to one margin. A close ally of Rousseff, Alencar is the son of the late vice-president of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government.

Read more… 

Paulo Sotero is the Director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

*Photo courtesy of Flickr users PSDB MG and Joao de Bourbon. 

Marina and Dilma: Outliers of women’s participation in Brazilian politics

October 1, 2014

Erica Kliment and Layne Vandenberg – Brazil Institute, 10/01/2014

The upcoming Brazilian presidential elections are likely to be decided between two women. The current president, Dilma Rousseff, became the first woman president of Brazil in 2010, and her adversary, former senator and environmental minister, Marina Silva, changed the outlook of the presidential elections when she accepted the presidential candidacy for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) following the tragic death of former candidate, Eduardo Campos, in an unanticipated plane crash. Since the announcement of Marina’s candidacy, Dilma and Marina, as they are called in Brazil, have continued to fluctuate in the polls as the first round of elections, held on October 5th, approaches. Do the candidacies of President Dilma Rousseff and Marina Silva indicate that Brazil has finally emerged into an era of increased political participation of women?

Click on this infographic for more information on the topic.

Click on this infographic for more information on the topic.

According to statistics of women’s political participation in Brazil, Marina and Dilma appear to remain outliers. Although over 50% of the Brazilian electorate is female, the Inter-Parliamentary Union found that only 8.6% of the representatives from the Chamber of Deputies are female as of 2014, placing Brazil below the international average of 22.2%.

This is not to say, however, that Brazilian institutions have not attempted to increase female political participation. For over 20 years, Brazil has supported quotas to ensure women have a better chance of election. It is mandatory that 30% of all candidacy positions within each political party must be held by women. Although this quota has increased from its original 20%, it still falls short of other Latin American countries, such as Argentina and Bolivia, where 40% and 47% of national legislatures are female, respectively. These quotas may exist, but they are also associated with the concept of “candidatas laranjas” (orange candidates), who are used to fill the quota while also creating space for male candidates. An “orange candidate,” then, may not be truthfully elected for her political achievements and capabilities, but rather as a type of political surrogate. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Development Bank: The start of a new economic consensus?

July 21, 2014

Erica Kliment – Brazil Institute, 7/21/2014

2014 BRICS Summit in Brazil

The leaders at the 2014 BRICS Summit in Brazil

Is the rest of the world ready for a new order upheld by developing nations? In 2010, when former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva invited then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to the Itamaraty Palace in Brazil, the meeting was highly criticized by the Obama administration. Lula, who had seemed to enjoy international acclaim when dealing with regional politics, was then chastised when he had reached too far out of the western hemisphere. His response was that he was merely attempting to better situate Brazil on the global stage, yet could the criticism have come from the fact that larger power players did not believe Brazil was ready to graduate from the role of regional babysitter?

Four years later, with an unexpectedly successful World Cup under Brazil’s belt and planning on another fruitful mega-event in just two years, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the developed world seems slightly more willing to accept developing nations’ role in the international sphere. Individually, these nations’ global clout is diminishing with slowing economic growth rates, yet collectively, they have the potential to create a new platform upon which they and future developing nations can flourish. Towards the close of the most recent BRICS Summit, five of those countries reached an agreement that, depending on its success, could bring developing nations one step closer to the position they desire – the forefront of international affairs.

During the 2014 BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa jointly created the New Development Bank, a multinational fund of $150 billion in capital to provide stability and finance infrastructure for the five developing nations involved in the negotiations as well as future emerging markets. It will be headquartered in Shanghai with its first president from India, on a five-year rotating schedule, and with Brazil taking chairmanship of the board. Read the rest of this entry »

Brazil police occupy drug-infested Rio slum

August 5, 2013

Associated Foreign Press, 08/05/2013

Some 180 elite Brazilian police officers deployed into a drug-infested slum complex in northern Rio on Monday in order to prepare the way for a permanent presence there.

“We are here to stay,” Rio state governor Sergio Cabral told the daily O Dia.

The Mangueirinha complex, located in the Baixada Fluminense district, is home to 25,000 people and comprises the Corte 8, Sapo, Santuario and Mangueirinha favelas.

Read more…

In the Spotlight: Are Brazil’s world class events a catalyst for growth or misallocated public spending?

July 19, 2013

Carolina Cardenas – Brazil Institute, 07/19/2013


Ever since Brazil achieved macroeconomic stability with the implementation of the Plano Real in 1994, the country has come a long way, surpassing the UK to become the 6th largest economy in 2012. Sound economic policy coupled with a recent commodities boom allowed for decreasing poverty levels, rising purchasing power, and an addition of forty million Brazilians to the country’s middle class.  Along with economic growth has come a strong desire for international recognition. As one of the four original “emerging markets,” coined BRICs, Brazil has sought to expand its presence in international organizations. This can be seen in the country’s ongoing request for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and the appointment of Roberto Azevedo as director general of the World Trade Organization in 2013.  This global growing emergence has also translated into a growing tide of hosting world class events.  In an attempt to further elevate Brazil’s world status, the country will be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

In addition to international expansion, there is a second trend that has emerged as a result of Brazil’s economic growth. Widespread protests that have taken over the country’s streets since mid-June are representative of a Brazilian society that is demanding more from its government. Brazil’s expanding middle class has become more educated and further exposed to examples of transparency and ‘democracy with equity” worldwide, setting this benchmark for itself. Citizens are demanding better public services, infrastructure, education, health care and a change in the framework of Brazil’s democratic system. The government’s decision to host the World Cup followed by the summer Olympics has propelled Brazilian civil society to initiate a necessary debate on public spending priorities.

There are two phenomena taking place concurrently: Brazil’s desire to emerge globally and the citizens’ desire for better public services domestically. Although many consider these to be conflicting, hosting mega events at a time of pressing social need presents an incredible opportunity for boosting development. If used positively, the World Cup and Olympic Games could accelerate investment in infrastructure and improve services to meet international standards. However, perceptions of protesters at the moment are that, “the quality of urban life worsened as precedence was given to internationally prestigious events that ended up absorbing the investments that were supposed to improve transparency, education, and public services in general.”

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