By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The Brazilian military has taken full control over security in its crime-plagued capital. Organized crime has taken control of the state and this increased security is meant to restore order.

Brazilian soldiers search a resident of a favela. Image Courtesy of Mauro Pimentel.

Rio’s governor, Luiz Fernando Pezao, issued an appeal for help after chaos during the famous Rio Carnival. Several celebrations were spoiled by violence from gun fights and looting. Three police officers were killed in these violent clashes. The governor asked the national government to use military intervention because he saw it as the only way to tackle the heavily armed gangs. He apologized to the citizens affected saying, “We were not ready. There were mistakes in the first days and we reinforced the patrols.”

Due to the economic crisis, Rio’s police budget has been slashed in recent years. Critics say that police do not even have enough money to pay for the petrol in their patrol cars. The financial problems have also emboldened criminal gangs. The national recession, slump in oil prices, and high levels of corruption has given organized crime an opportunity to gain power.

President Michel Temer said organized criminals have all but seized control of the state and compares the growing gang violence to “a cancer.” He has appointed General Walter Souza Braga Netto to oversee security in the capital. This army general was widely praised for his part in coordinating security for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Residents of Rio try to go about their daily lives, but often find that violence gets in the way. Stray bullets have killed children in favelas, shoot-outs have closed down major highways, and mass robberies have ruined Carnival celebrations. Many criticize the fact that the state governor willingly gave up his power to the President. Even though most are happy that something is being done, many are skeptical of big political gestures like this when a presidential election is coming up.

For now, the army will regularly patrol some of the city’s most dangerous areas. It will be the first time the army has had such a high profile since Brazil’s return to democracy in 1985. Brazil’s National Congress still needs to approve the move.

President Temer explained, “Organized crime has almost taken over the state of Rio de Janeiro, it is a cancer that spreads throughout the country and threatens the tranquility of our people, so we have now enacted the federal intervention of the public security area of ​​Rio de Janeiro.”

For more information, please see:

Digital Journal – Brazil’s Temer announces new security ministry to combat violence – 18 February 2018

Euro News – Brazil’s military takes charge of Rio as gang violence spirals upwards – 18 February 2018

DW – Brazil to create new ministry for public security – 18 February 2018

BBC News – Rio de Janeiro violence: Brazil army to take control of security – 16 February 2018

NY Times – Brazil’s Military is Put in Charge of Security in Rio de Janeiro – 16 February 2018

Author: Emily Green