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

December 19, 2014

Layne Vandenberg – Brazil Institute, 12/18/2014

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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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Rio protest: Brazil police demand tougher protection laws

December 15, 2014

AP – BBC News, 12/15/2014

Hundreds of Brazilian police officers and their relatives have taken part in a protest in Rio de Janeiro to demand tougher legislation for crimes against the police.

They are demanding changes in the penal code so that the killing of police officers be treated as heinous crimes. Eighty officers were killed in the line of duty in Rio this year alone.

In most cases, they died fighting the criminal gangs that control many of the city’s shantytowns, or favelas. During the week, protesters laid crosses on the sand of Copacabana beach with the names of the dead. Wearing predominantly black, some 500 people staged a march on Sunday to raise awareness to the problem.

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Brazil tops banking malware list

December 12, 2014

Angelica Mari – ZDNet, 12/12/2014

Cybercriminals have placed Brazil as the number one nation in a online banking trojan ranking as attempts to steal cash online saw a massive increase during the World Cup.

New research by Kaspersky Lab covering the period from November 2013 to October 2014 lists Brazil as the country with the largest number of users attacked by banking malware, followed by Russia and Germany.

Some 299,830 users fell victim to banking malware in Brazil during the period. Second on the list is Russia with 251,917 attacked users and Germany, with 155,773 malware attacks in 2014.

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Brazilian man says he killed dozens of women in Rio de Janeiro region

December 12, 2014

Jethro Mullen and Marilia Brocchetto – CNN, 12/12/2014

A Brazilian man has confessed to killing 39 women in the Rio de Janeiro region, police said Thursday — shocking claims that, if confirmed, would make him one of the most prolific serial killers in the country’s history.

In an interview with Brazilian broadcaster TV Globo, the alleged killer, Sailson Jose das Gracas, said that he carried out the first slaying when he was 17 and continued to kill over the next decade.

“I started robbing purses and small things like that,” he told TV Globo. “And as I got older, I started having a different thoughts. My thoughts started changing. From stealing, I started thinking about killing.”

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Brazil Has ‘a Ferguson Every Day’

November 27, 2014

Mac Margolis – Bloomberg View, 11/26/2014

Like many expatriate Americans, I spent a lot of time in August staring at video replays of the protests roiling Ferguson, Missouri, and beyond. After all, the story line — white cop shoots unarmed black man, streets erupt — seemed only too familiar, one of those signal moments by which the U.S. is seen and judged by the rest of the world.

But when I commented on the tumult to a senior Brazilian political journalist in Rio de Janeiro, where I live, he seemed underwhelmed. “Ah, I heard about that,” he said, laconically. Likewise, the Missouri grand jury’s failure to indict the police officer who’d pulled the trigger got little more than a few angry tweets and Facebook rants.

My Brazilian friend was not uninterested, merely inured. Racism, rogue cops and rough justice are as familiar here as flip flops and palm trees. Brazilian police killed 2,212 people last year, the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety, a national think tank, reported in a study published Nov. 9. Between them, report the authors, Brazilian state and federal police violence claimed more lives (11,200) in the last five years than did all U.S. police combined in the last 30 (11,090).

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Brazil’s favela fairy tale: When Prince Charming packs heat

November 25, 2014

Flora Charner – Aljazeera America, 11/24/2014

As Marcelle Rosa, 15, walked onto the dance floor, she looked like a modern-day princess. She was wearing a pink and black ball gown with a tightly laced corset and a tiara on top of her coiffed curls. Suddenly, a man in a pressed uniform took her by the hand and led her in a waltz. She could not stop smiling.

Rosa and a group of her closest friends were living any girl’s fairy tale, far, far away from the favela they call home. While the night was everything she would have dreamed, she never imagined her Prince Charming would be an officer from Rio de Janeiro’s military police.

The music switched from Tchaikovsky to Brazilian funk, and the teenagers let go of their partners. With each beat, the girls bounced and gyrated, swishing their long dresses on the floor. A group of female police officers joined the dance circle and shimmied with the girls. This was the Cerro-Corá favela’s debutante ball, organized by the fairy godmothers of the local Police Pacification Unit, or UPP.

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Brazil Military Drills to Defend Amazon

November 14, 2014

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 11/8/2014

Brazil’s army is deploying troops this month to the far reaches of the Amazon in a military exercise simulating a foreign invasion of the rain forest, focusing attention on sensitivity over sovereignty in a region rising in importance as a strategic pillar of Latin America’s largest economy.

The troop mobilization, starting on Monday and called Operation Machifaro, points to a deepening of a central element of military doctrine in Brazil, which holds the defense of the Amazon as a top priority. The Amazon’s mineral wealth and vast reserves of fresh water place the region “in the context of potential threats,” military officials here said in a statement.

“The operation will provide ways for optimizing a strategy of resistance in the region,” said Gen. Guilherme Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira, chief of Brazil’s Amazon Military Command. He also emphasized that the exercise was aiming to “consolidate a doctrine of jungle combat.”

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