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?
WikiLeaks recently released this confidential State Department cable from September of 2009 summarizing the UPP program, and describing it as sharing “some characteristics with U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine and strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq” and emphasizes “significant economic interests at stake.” The author, Dennis W. Hearne, currently the consul general of Rio de Janeiro, previously spent two years as a political adviser in Afghanistan. Hearne concludes that if the UPP program continues past Rio’s 2009 Olympics bid and Sergio Cabral’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, it has serious potential to “remake the social and economic fabric of Rio de Janeiro,” noting the serious benefits of “reintegrating some one million favela residents into mainstream markets.”
US embassy cable – 09RIODEJANEIRO329
COUNTER-INSURGENCY DOCTRINE COMES TO RIO’S FAVELAS Continue reading →
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.
Ignácio Cano is a professor and researcher at the Laboratório de Análise da Violência at the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro. He has been studying public security, violence, police, and society in Rio and Brazil for fifteen years. Rio Radar had the chance to sit down with Professor Cano at his home office recently for a long talk. We didn’t have the heart to cut much content, so, as a special feature, we are releasing the content in four installments:
The Role of Militias
Corruption & Politics
Public Security: Past, Present & Future
This video addresses connections between police and political corruption and the increasingly united voice of civil society against “business as usual.” Ignacio directly links higher level corruption to violence in the city and ponders security in 2017, when the mega-event well runs dry and speaks frankly about Rio’s political leaders.
Rio Radar was fortunate enough to interview journalist, blogger, and Twitter enthusiast Cecília Olliveira. Cecília is a reporter for the respected Rio-based NGO Observatório de Favelas, which conducts research and outreach in favelas across Brazil. In her free time she writes the blog Arma Branca on issues related to public security and human rights. In this video, she discusses her issues with the UPP policy and its implementation, the abundance of killings by police in Rio and the general impunity, and the recent, troubling case of Juan Moraes, an 11-year-old boy who was killed by police officers in Nova Igauçu, the resultant cover-up, and public reaction.
Extra clips from Cecília Olliveira about eminent domain removals in Morro da Providência, the failures of the local media, and foreigners’ misconceptions about Rio are on the way!
Rio Radar interviews Rogerio Rodrigues, volunteer coordinator at Instituto Dois Irmãos in favela da Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro. Rogerio argues that public works projects in Rio (i.e. PAC) lack substance, discusses the rising international presence in his neighborhood, residents’ perceptions of government intervention and the pending UPP incursion, and why preferring drug traffickers over the police is short-sighted.
Rio Radar interviews Francisco Farias. Originally from Ipu, Ceará in the Northeast of Brazil, Francisco moved to Rio when he was 18 in search of greater opportunities and now lives in Rio das Pedras, Jacarepagua in Rio’s West Zone. In this interview he discusses the difficulties of Northeastern migrants, laments the lack of basic public services, explains the differences between Rio das Pedras (controlled by militias) and Rocinha (controlled by drug traffickers), expresses his hope for Brazil’s future, and cites corruption as Brazil’s main systemic problem.
Next up…an interview with Rogerio Rodrigues, volunteer coordinator at the Instituto Dois Irmãos in Favela da Rocinha.
Interview conducted in cooperation with Brazilian Forum of Public Security and Security Community
INTERVIEW – Lieutenant Colonel Wilman René Gonçalves Alonso
“Through sad scenes we have learned and transformed.” This phrase is from the commander of the Special Operations Battalion of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro (BOPE), Lieutenant Colonel Wilman René Gonçalves Alonso, the official with the most time in the unit—15 years.
In an interview with Comunidade Segura, he reveals the dynamism of BOPE, anti-drug trafficking operations, social interaction with the communities, and rescue operations of families stranded by flooding in the Serrana Region of Rio de Janeiro.
For Colonel René, as he is known, the pacification process opens the possibility of BOPE returning to its origins—a hostage rescue unit. But before, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics bring a new threat: terrorism. “We are preparing for the worst,” he says.
Col. Lima Castro, new Inspector General of the Municipal Guard of RJ
English translation of article: “Experiência de UPP na Guarda Municipal.” From Metro Rio, originally published April 6, 2011.
UPP Experience in the Municipal Guard [GM]
Colonel Lima Castro, ex-public relations coordinator of the PM [Military Police], assumes command of the organization and sets improving the image of the GM as his primary goal. The second phase of “Shock of Order,” with 24 hour patrols, will begin in Tijuca
One of the principal personalities in the PM during the taking of Complexo do Alemão assumes command of the Municipal Guard. Colonel Henrique Lima Castro, ex-public relations chief of the PM, took over the post of Inspector General of the company yesterday in a ceremony at the battalion headquarters of the GM, in São Cristóvão, replacing Col. Ricardo Pacheco of the PM.
Among the principle management challenges of the new inspector will be to increase the role of the organization and improve its image among the population. “I will bring my 28 years of experience in the PM to the office. There, my mission was to improve the image of the police, and because of this I was chosen for the GM. My objective is to show to the population what is the Guard,” said Col. Lima Castro.