‘Bullet Caucus’ in Brazil Signals Political Shift to the Right

January 15, 2015

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 1/14/2015

Paulo Telhada rolls his eyes, denouncing Brazil’s support for the leftist government of Venezuela. He frowns, grumbling about gun control measures. But when the subject turns to how many people he killed as a police officer on São Paulo’s streets, he gives a broad smile.

“More than 30,” said Mr. Telhada, 53, a rising star in Brazilian right-wing political circles, having recently won a seat in São Paulo’s state legislature in a landslide. “I feel no pity for thugs,” he added, emphasizing that he did not enjoy working in a fancy office. “But I know my future lies in politics now.”

Across Brazil, politicians like Mr. Telhada, with backgrounds in law enforcement or the armed forces, have been winning elections. In Congress, about 21 legislators now form what is called the bancada da bala, a “bullet caucus” seeking to bolster gun ownership and repeal laws keeping teenagers from being tried and sentenced as adults, among other conservative measures.

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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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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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Young, Black, Alive – Breaking the silence on Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate

November 26, 2014

Atila Roque – Live Wire, 11/26/2014

Earlier this week, many people around the world waited with bated breath for a grand jury’s decision in a case where a police officer shot dead an unarmed young black man on the street. While the 9 August shooting of Michael Brown took place in the US suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, the case has a deep resonance here in Brazil. The tragic course of events leading up to the teenager’s death could just as easily have played out on the streets of our cities orfavelas.

Of the 56,000 homicides in Brazil every year, 30,000 are young people aged 15 to 29. That means that, at this very moment, a young person is most likely being killed in Brazil. By the time you go to bed, 82 will have died today. It’s like a small airplane full of young people crashing every two days, with no survivors. This would be shocking enough by itself, but it’s even more scandalous that 77 per cent of these young people are black.

Since 1980, more than 1 million people have been murdered in Brazil. According to Global Burden of Armed Violence 2008, in the period from 2004 to 2007, more people were killed here than in the 12 main wars worldwide. However the violence doesn’t impact Brazilian society equally. Murders are rampant in poor and marginalized communities. Prejudice and negative stereotypes associated with the favelas and city outskirts have a key role in perpetrating this violence.

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Police Violence Continues to Plague Brazil: Report

November 12, 2014

David Gagne  – InSight Crime, 11/11/2014

A new report by a citizen security body in Brazil says that police have killed more than 11,000 civilians in the past five years — while the number of police killed during the same period nearly doubled — suggesting strategies aimed at lowering police brutality have not had the intended effect.

The report (pdf) published by the Brazilian Forum on Public Security — a body comprised of security officials, research centers, and NGOs — counted 11,197 citizen deaths perpetrated by both on and off-duty police in the country from 2009 to 2013, representing an average of 2,239 people killed by police per year over that period (see graph).

The highest number of reported police killings in this time frame was in 2010, with 2,434 cases, while the lowest number occurred the following year, with 2,042. According to the report, the vast majority of killings are committed by military police. This body was responsible for 1,567 citizen deaths in 2013, compared to just 198 cases of fatal confrontations between civil police and civilians. On the flip side, military police are also over four times more likely to be killed than civil police.

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Clashes erupt in Brazil as police evict squatters from high-rise

September 17, 2014

Vincent Bevins – The Los Angeles Times, 09/16/2014

Clashes between police and squatters resisting eviction paralyzed Sao Paulo on Tuesday morning, as streets were emptied and the center of South America’s largest city was filled with tear gas and smoke from at least one torched city bus.

Large-scale demonstrations and street conflicts have taken place periodically across Brazil since June 2013, but had largely subsided since the beginning of the World Cup soccer tournament this June.

Chaos returned on Tuesday, however, after the forced eviction of members of the FLM, or Front to Fight for Housing, one of the many groups living in abandoned buildings in the city’s center. More than 70 people were arrested in the melee.

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Brazil policemen tried over Carandiru jail massacre

July 30, 2013

BBC, 07/28/2013

The trial has begun in Brazil of 26 policemen accused of killing dozens of inmates during a prison riot in Sao Paulo in 1992.

Witnesses say riot police began shooting at random as they stormed the Carandiru prison.

In half-an-hour, 111 prisoners were killed in what became known as the Carandiru massacre. The policemen currently facing trial are accused of killing 73 prisoners on the second floor of the jail.

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