Urban insecurity rises again in Brazil

Brazil beat its murder record in 2017: 63,880 murders, 175 deaths every day, and 3 % more than the previous year, according to the Brazil Public Security Forum. What underlies this trend? Organised crime is a key factor that causes it to increase.

favelaThe rate of murders in Brazil has risen with the arrival of the world’s biggest drug traffickers: from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Brazil is an important consumer of cocaine and crack; it is also a transit country for drugs being transported to Europe and Asia.

A report published by International Institute of Strategic Studies stresses the challenges involved in addressing organised crime to guarantee effective urban security in all cities worldwide, but especially in the “favelas” of Brazil like Maré. This is in Rio de Janeiro, and is one of the biggest favelas, with a total of 130,000 residents. According to Patrícia Vianna, coordinator of the NGO Redes, the number of armed civilians has increased over the last 4 years.

During these 4 years public security in the State of Rio has worsened, coinciding with a political and economic crisis that has affected public policies. Rio’s public administration carried out a “pacifying strategy”. This involved a series of military interventions by military police and the permanent presence of a police pacifying unit. Between 2008 and 2012, this strategy worked quite well to the point that the World Bank regarded is as the best international strategy. But in February 2018, the federal government intervened and temporarily transferred these competences from Rio security institutions to the federal armed forces.
Maré, an overpopulated and extremely impoverished area, has been used as a laboratory for military intervention. Between 2014 and 2015 about 2,500 soldiers patrolled the area; during these years, homicide rates fell sharply (from 21 to 5 per 100,000 inhabitants), according to the Ministry of Defence. However, the problem with this strategy is that it never achieved a solution. “The pacifying strategy” was simply a short-term solution, which avoided addressing the main causes of the problem. Once the military forces left, Maré went back to being an area controlled by criminal factions.
The situation of this favela in Rio is not an isolated problem that is only found in Brazil. As the urban population grows in cities in developing countries in areas like Asia or Africa, situations like the one affecting Rio may increasingly occur.

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