Military Occupation of Rio De Janeiro

Temer’s political gamble

 

From Homicide to pick-pocketing, nearly every crime statistic in the state of Rio De Janeiro has been on the increase over the last few years. Raising in parallel to the statistics are the concerns of Brazilian citizens who continuously place security atop their list of concerns about the country.

Homicide in particular increased nearly 18% from 2016 to 2017 with around 1,400 victims accounted for in Rio.

This increase in crime has been met with a strong response from the government who have put military personnel in control of all Rio’s police and security operations. This is the first-time military forces will be deployed in this manner since the creation of the new constitution in 1988. Whilst officially the reason for making the decision was to address increasing crime rates, the justification does not fully add up.

I spoke with Brazilian correspondent Rennan Rodrigues for Yopics.co.uk who explained the political side of Temer’s choice to deploy.

“The justification for the intervention was to combat violence, trafficking, and militias (kind of police mafia). However, too many contradictions were made in the decision. The decision may have been misleading as no other solution to the problem was presented. It is also speculated that it was a political decision…we are close to another election period, and the party of the governor and the president of the ruling Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) has the lowest levels of popularity”

Rennan continued to explain the contradictions in president Temer’s policy. “Another issue that contradicts the federal decision is that the state of Rio De Janeiro is not the most violent in Brazil, according to official data, Rio (city) ranks tenth. So why was not the intervention in other states? This suggests that Rio was selected as it is the most recognizable state”

The suspect policy choice may also be endangering the residents of the poorest areas in the state. The newly reformed military police units are focusing attention on the favelas of Rio and poorer income suburbs. Border towns and road have also been targeted to avoid criminal from escaping to neighboring states of Espirito Santo, São Paulo, and Minas Gerais.

However, the full extent of the operation is not yet visible but the attention on the poorest people of Rio has raised concerns that Brazils military occupation of Rio could emulate that of Mexico City (which was put in to place late 2017). In the case of Mexico City, their military was deployed after record-breaking murder rates in 2017. Since their deployment, the military trained personnel have been deemed by some to be overly aggressive in a civilian setting, which may have led to human rights abuses. Maria Laura Canineu Director of Brazil Human Rights Watch has criticized the “…dangerously broad license to kill.” saying that “they are there to tackle crime, not fight a war.”. Similar concerns have been expressed by other NGO’s and the international community.

Mexico’s example and subsequent evidence reflect the doubt felt by residents that Temer’s decision to deploy military troops into the country’s famous city of Rio and the wider state could be driven by something other than public concern. There are 16 Million people in the state of Rio De Janeiro and their security now rests in the hands of combat trained soldiers.

Only time will tell the true implications of Temer’s strong-handed move, he will hope for a boost in the pools ahead of the October elections, and Brazil will hope for a positive decrease in crime.

 

By Luke Ambrose

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