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 to address 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?
Lt. Col. Wilmam René Gonçalves Alonso is the commander of the (in)famous Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE) and a fifteen year member of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ). In an exclusive interview conducted by Rio Radar in association with Cecília Olliveira of Arma Branca, Lt.Col. René discussed the differences in pacification operations, public security expenditures, BOPE’s future home at the new special operations base in Complexo da Maré, new equipment procurement (including drone aircrafts), the threat of terrorism, the recent corruption case of BOPE Corporal Mauro Lopes Figueiredo, and the long-run outlook for police pacification units (UPPs) and BOPE.
The hilly city of Medellín, once the murder capital of the world
Recent policies enacted in Medellín have shown substantial reductions in armed violence and public security. The “Medellín Model” has been appropriated by a handful of cities looking to reduce their own domestic crime problems, including Rio de Janeiro. However, the Medellín miracle is beginning to show its cracks.
Medellín, the Challenge Continues: Interview with Iván Darío Ramírez
After registering a murder rate of 381 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1991—three times the current level in Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in the world today, according to the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University—Medellin was able to reverse the dramatic situation and, in 2004, boasted a rate of 24 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, leaving behind cities like Washington. The Colombian city’s data comes from NGOs like Como Vamos Medellín and the Institute of Legal Medicine of Colombia.
Camilo Coelho, once a public security reporter for Jornal Extra, is now the driving force behind Blog da Pacificação, which has the mission of finding and sharing the stories of the “moradores de bem” (good residents) in favelas with UPPs. He has been doing this work for over a year. In this video, Camilo says there are tangible gains from this project and that cariocas want to believe that it will improve their city. He discusses his work and how it has made him a proponent of the UPP project, while admitting that more needs to be done in terms of social investment because the police alone cannot tackle all problems.
*Editor’s note: In this video, Camilo says that the blog is apolitical and that he does not work for the government, but is, instead, contracted by Casa Digital, an advertising agency “that believes in Rio.” Casa Digital is the digital media branch of the firm Agência Prole [http://prole.com.br/projetos.html], which manages the multimillion real contracts [http://prole.com.br/clientes.html] of Viva Rio, AfroReggae, and the city and state governments of Rio de Janeiro. It also managed the recent reelection campaigns for Mayor Eduardo Paes and Governor Sérgio Cabral, a campaign on which Coelho worked.
Paulo Storani is one of the real life inspirations for the character Capitão Nascimento in the Tropa de Elite films. A BOPE captain for five of his 17 years in Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police, he has a Master’s in anthropology, teaches and conducts research at four area universities, was the secretary of public security in the city of São Gonçalo, gives motivational speeches, and is a public security consultant.
Between two of these speeches, Captain Storani told Rio Radar about why BOPE is still essential to Rio, why it is moving its headquarters to Complexo do Maré, why militias are “the problem of the decade,” why the UPP is a short-term project that will not solve Rio’s public security problems, and the #1 solution to change this.
Secretary Admits that Traffickers Have Returned to Alemão, Where the Military Found an Unexploded Bomb
RIO – After the third night of clashes between Army soldiers and drug traffickers in Complexo do Alemão, the region had its security reinforced on Wednesday. With over one hundred men, the Military Police decided to indefinitely occupy two neighboring hills—Baiana and Adeus. And this afternoon, Army soldiers will execute a large operation at the access points to the Complexo in two Urutu armored vehicles.
At a news conference, the state Security Secretary, José Mariano Beltrame, confirmed that traffickers entered Alemão last night. Beltrame would not reveal the number of bandits or where they came from, though he says that the Secretariat’s intelligence division has this information.
Police Officers from UPP Santa Teresa Arrested with R$13,000, Origin Unknown
RIO – Three police officers working in the Coroa, Fallet, and Fogueteiro Police Pacification Unit (UPP) were arrested late Monday night by Pacification Police officials. The sergeant and two soldiers were in possession of approximately R$13,000 in a vehicle parked near the communities.
The police action occurred thanks to an anonymous tip and utilized the support of the Military Police Intelligence Division. At the time of the arrest, the officers could not explain the money’s origin. Military Police Internal Affairs opened an investigation on the matter.
A poster for the anonymous tipline "Disque-Denúncia" particularly for Morro da Coroa
Security Secretariat Will Reevaluate Favela Pacification Policy; Cabral Admits Failures
Governor participated in graduation ceremony for 489 new police officers
After a series of clashes involving the police and military in Rio de Janeiro’s communities occupied by security forces, Governor Sérgio Cabral admitted on Tuesday morning (6) “fragility” in the security policy adopted by the UPPs (Police Pacification Units). Cabral also announced that the UPPs will undergo a review process during a seminar next Thursday (8) and Friday (9), at the Public Security Secretariat’s headquarters at Central do Brasil, downtown.
UPP do Pavão-Pavãozinho-Cantagalo Receives Headquarters After Two Years
On Friday, September 2nd at 11 am the inauguration ceremonies will commence for the new headquarters of UPP (Police Pacification Unit) Pavão-Pavãozinho-Cantagalo at 12 Alberto Campos road in Ipanema, South Zone of Rio de Janeiro.
The new building has four floors, plus a basement and roof deck, and has an elevator and solar water heaters.
Inaugurated in December 2009, the unit worked in a provisional headquarters in a building constructed by the state Department of Housing for low-income families.
The site was deactivated when residents were transferred to new PAC (Acceleration Growth Program) buildings.
Beltrame Says Mangueira Still is Not Ready for UPP
Rio – Occupied by the Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE) for more than two months, the community of Mangueira in the North Zone of Rio is not yet ready to receive the UPP pacification police. The evaluation comes from the battalion itself and is sent daily to Security Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame, who ensured, however, that next Carnaval will be the first with fresh air for the community historically linked to samba.