Brazil, the Outlaw’s Paradise

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 2/5/2015

A long-established piece of wisdom in Hollywood says that if you have robbed a bank or sold war secrets to the enemy, or even if you’ve just embezzled some company funds, then you should pack your stuff and move to Brazil.

According to my brief detective work, perhaps the first film to reference the peculiar attraction that Brazil holds for international runaways was “The Lavender Hill Mob,” a 1951 British comedy starring Alec Guinness. His character steals one million pounds in gold from the Bank of England, melts the bars into miniature Eiffel Towers and comes “straight on to Rio de Janeiro. Gay, sprightly, land of mirth and social ease.”

A year later, the Hollywood drama “5 Fingers” presented an ambitious British Embassy valet who decides to sell secrets to the Nazis. James Mason’s character intends to collect 200,000 pounds in 12 weeks, and then dash into “a new life. A new name.” Alongside his partner, a ruined countess portrayed by Danielle Darrieux, he plans to escape “the wars, the intrigues, fears,” and to become like the elegant man he once saw on the balcony of a Brazilian villa, high in the mountainside above the harbor. “He seemed close enough to touch, and yet he was beyond the reach of anyone.”

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Brazil insists violence won’t undermine 2016 Olympics

AP – SF Gate, 2/3/2015

Brazil’s Tourism Minister said Tuesday that he’s not worried that a recent spike in violence in Rio de Janeiro might deter visitors from attending next year’s Olympic Games.

Vinicius Lages said studies have shown that insecurity is not a major worry for visitors to the city, which has long had alarmingly frequent muggings and high murder rates.

Though levels of violence have dipped in recent years, Rio has had a recent spike in insecurity, including highly publicized spates of stray bullet fatalities and mass robberies on its showcase beaches.

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Brazil: Action Needed to Curb Chronic Abuses

Human Rights Watch, 1/29/2015

Brazil needs to do more to address the problems of torture, unlawful police killings, and inhumane prison conditions, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2015.

In the 656-page world report, its 25th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth urges governments to recognize that human rights offer an effective moral guide in turbulent times, and that violating rights can spark or aggravate serious security challenges. The short-term gains of undermining core values of freedom and non-discrimination are rarely worth the long-term price. The chapter on Brazil highlights the most troubling human rights trends in the country and assesses steps the government has taken to address them.

“While state and federal authorities have taken encouraging steps to improve human rights practices, the abuses we documented in 2014 show that much more needs to be done,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch.

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Brazil police raiding warehouse for stolen goods find two military tanks

AP – The Guardian, 1/27/2015

A Brazilian police raid to recover stolen cars and cargo came up with a more interesting find: two war tanks.

Police in Brazil’s biggest city said on Tuesday that the engine-less tanks were found inside a warehouse in Sacoma, a low-income district in São Paulo. Police also confiscated 500 television sets, car body parts and a recently stolen semitrailer truck.

Army officers told the UOL internet portal that the two tanks found on Monday did not belong to the army and that their origin would be investigated. Officials did not say what sort of tanks they were or how old they might be. Images published by local media show a treaded vehicle with five road wheels on each side.

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Olympic host Brazil dominates list of world’s 50 most dangerous cities

Tim Johnson – McClatchyDC, 1/20/2015

Forty-three of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are in Latin America, according to a survey released Tuesday, including 19 in Brazil, which will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Mexico City didn’t make the list, and Ciudad Juárez, the border city with Texas that was once the world’s murder capital, fell this year to No. 27. But the fallen Mexican resort of Acapulco was No. 3, behind San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and Caracas, Venezuela.

This is the seventh year that the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice, a Mexico City advocacy, has compiled the list, based on official murder rates per 100,000 residents of cities with more than 300,000 people.

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Why Brazil Put Its Military In Charge of Cyber Security

Robert Muggah and Misha Glenny – Defense One, 1/13/2015

Brazil has embraced the digital age with more gusto than most. It is one of the top users of social media and recently signed-off on a bill of rights for the Internet, the Marco Civil. The country is also a leader in the development of online banking with more than 43 percent of web users engaging such services, and can be proud of a thriving software industry, including some world class companies.

But as computer users around the world are beginning to grasp, the spread of the digital world has its dark side. Alongside all the great things the Internet offers, not least new forms of political and economic empowerment, it brings some very serious threats.

Brazilians are waking up to the reality of online scams, hacking, espionage and digital surveillance. And while the government is taking cyber malfeasance seriously, it may have seriously misinterpreted the nature and significance of those threats and, as a consequence, the best way to tackle them.

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

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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