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Jul 26th 2005

brazilian hypocrisy astounds

given brazil’s recent complaints, it is very interesting to look into brazil’s own law enforcement problems. the brazilian government seems to be holding britain to an unbelievably high standard for exercising lethal force. it is outraged by the mistaken killing of one of its citizens in london and chooses to ignore the circumstances of the incident. while the death of jean charles de menezes was tragic and avoidable, several reports show that brazil has much more glaring law enforcement issues to deal with.

An opinion poll run by the newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo provides some shocking statistics. 84.8% of the population claims to have lost confidence in the police force, while 60.8% say that they have already been robbed. 57.84% know someone who has been mugged and 29.11% have friends who have been kidnapped.

Last year, there were 307 kidnappings in Sao Paulo, an average of almost one per day. A taxi driver spoke of a new type of kidnapping, “lightning-kidnaps” in which a person is seized and threatened until the sum of half a USD is paid. The more dangerous areas of this city, which has 15 million inhabitants, are the northern and eastern sectors. Motorists do not dare to stop at red lights in many areas. [source]

i also found an article from 11 days ago (i kid you not) titled: Making Police Less Threatening than Bandit Is Challenge for Brazil. The key quotation from this article:

“We have surveys showing that in some place in Brazil people are just as suspicious of the police as they are of criminals. That is a worrisome factor,” he said.”

map of brazil-blog-conservative political opinion

also worrisome are these reports:

In several states, authorities charged with overseeing public security have adopted policies that appear to actually foster human rights abuse. For example, in Rio de Janeiro, in November 1995, the state governor signed a decree authorizing salary bonuses for officers demonstrating “bravery.” At the same time, the secretary of public security revived a dormant provision that allows for promotions of police involved in acts of bravery. In practice, these bonuses and promotions have been used to reward officers that have killed criminal suspects, regardless of the circumstances. We examined ninety-two incidents resulting in recommendations for promotion between 1995 and 1996. In those instances of “bravery,” Rio de Janeiro military police killed seventy-two civilians while suffering six deaths. According to press sources, these policies have led to a six-fold increase in the number of civilians killed by military police in the city of Rio. Faced with criticism from nongovernmental organizations, Secretary of Public Security Gen. Nilton Cerqueira has assailed his detractors as fronts for drug traffickers.
— — —
The watershed mark in the escalation of military police violence in São Paulo was the incident at the Carandiru (Casa de Detenção) prison on October 2, 1992. On that date, a riot broke out in Pavilion Nine of the prison. After a cursory attempt to dialogue with the prisoners, military police shock troops stormed the prison and killed 111 detainees. Subsequent investigations demonstrated that the police summarily executed dozens of their victims, many after they had been forced to strip naked and return to their cells.
— — —
In the case of crimes committed by both military and civil police, the path to impunity is often traced from the act of police violence itself. After killing a suspect or suspects, police often take their victims to nearby hospitals to receive “first aid.” This practice undermines investigation of the crime scene, while promoting the appearance of police concern for the well-being of their shooting victims. In Rio de Janeiro, in dozens of instances which resulted in promotions, police officers brought victims of shootings to local hospitals, where they were pronounced dead. In July 1996, Dr. Maria Emília Amaral, director of the Souza Aguiar Hospital in downtown Rio, reported that in a period of twenty days police had brought ten dead bodies to her hospital’s emergency room. Dr. Amaral wrote to Secretary of Public Security Nilton Cerqueira requesting that he order his police to stop their practice of delivering corpses to the emergency area of the hospital for first aid.

Several cases documented in this and prior reports involve this practice, including the May 1995 massacre in the Nova Brasilia favela. In that incident, despite newspaper photographs and television images of police officers dumping obviously dead bodies onto the back of a sanitation truck, these same officers in their statements explained in the police inquiry that they had brought the victims to the hospital to receive first aid. As this report was being prepared, the public prosecutors’ office had not brought charges against these police.
— — —
…torture is common in police precincts, and survivors’ testimony in this regard is shocking. One victim provided the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly this statement about the torture he suffered at the hands of a policeman in a precinct in Bahia on April 13, 1995:

[…]The guy grabbed me and hit me twice, on Friday. He put me with my hands over the table, curved, this way, and cut my finger here and here. Afterwards he put me standing against the wall and threw a knife to see if it would get stuck on the door. Afterwards he put me in there with a prisoner named Dudu, who beat me. On Friday I didn’t sleep; they kept on giving me showers every twenty minutes, and they kept beating me. On Saturday, policeman Joaquim put me this way and beat me, he broke a nightstick on my back, took another one, and kept beating me. Afterwards he commanded me to spread a cream, like those used on toilet seats, over the head of the nightstick. Then he introduced the stick into my [anus] three times, I kept falling down and he kept beating me. I went to the bathroom to defecate, I was going to defecate in the toilet when he said : “You’re not going to defecate in the toilet, you’re going to do it on the ground so that you can eat it.” Then I defecated on the ground and he made me eat it. Afterwards he beat me, I was cleaning the walls which were dirty with blood and he was beating me. Afterwards he put me in there, my legs were all washed with blood, he threw alcohol at them andset them afire, I was going to put the fire out and he said: “Don’t do it, you son of a b****!” [source]

these samples are taken from just the first half of the report (i hope you can understand why i’ve lost interest). then there is this report:

There is, throughout the country, an overwhelming lack of confidence in the police.

The reasons behind the failures of Brazil’s police forces are legion. Until recently, there were no academic research areas dedicated to studies that might influence security policy and police conduct. There were few independent training facilities and no fields of study such as criminology or areas of specialization on crime within the discipline of sociology.

Obviously, an analysis of public security requires taking into account macroeconomic and political factors which, given Brazil’s poverty, income distribution and unemployment, are the context for its high crime rates. To give an indication of the crime levels, in Rio there are currently on an annual basis 43.5 homicides per 100,000 population compared to 8.4 in NY. The majority of these deaths are of young, black males between the ages of 15 to 24 and a very high percentage killed by the police. [source]

and, not to belabor the point, but….

Despite the fact that one Brazilian authority called this declaration irresponsible and ridiculous, the facts are hard to dispute. According to UN guidelines, a country with over 25,000 assassinations per year is considered in a state of war, and last year, according to the Ministry of Justice, Brazil registered well over 40,000 assassinations.
— — —
Exacerbating the dramatic increase in violence is a continued complete lack of confidence in public security and government officials. A recent study by the newspaper Folha of São Paulo revealed that 59 percent of the residents of this city of São Paulo have more fear than trust in the police and security forces. Controlling violence and restoring a sense of public security is practically impossible when daily headlines show the narcotics police (DeNarc) commandeering the drug traffic in a part of the city known as “Crack-land” (so called for the quantity of crack cocaine that passes through this area) or the military police being indicted for protecting drug lords and “helping” identify potential victims to kidnap. [source]

all of this, yet brazil’s government (and bloggers) scold england over 1 death.

:: related ::

  • grow up, brazil
  • grow up, brazil part deux
  • the cold calculus of fighting terrorism
  • if it walks, talks, & quacks like a duck during duck season, it’s gonna get shot
  • 3 Responses to “brazilian hypocrisy astounds”

    1. Janaina Souza

      Travis,

      Let me see if I understood your point of view and pls correct me if I´m wrong:

      ** brazilian government should carry about the problems that occurs in Brazil instead of carry about the “one” death in London **
      If we think in this way, we´ll be talking about statistics and we should not care also about the several deaths caused by terrorism in London … And this is not the case, of course! Sorry, but the death will always shock us if happens under conditions of terrorism, violence, by mistake, accident, … wherever it happens! – I´m sure you agree with me in this point –
      Note that I´m not offended by your opinion – as a matter of fact, I´m here in Brazil and I really know the real situation we are – but this bad situation does not justify that Brazil must be quite “impartial” by “just one” death out of its territory, eventhought unfortunatelly, whatever the Brazilian and British governements do will not “revive” Jean Charles de Menezes or correct the police mistake and the most important thing: STOP definetelly the terrorism, because untill now the world do not know HOW to face/ combat this effectively, this is still a “hidden threat” – this is the hard truth!
      Hope we all have better and peace days soon …

    2. Janaina,

      i think we basically agree. let me explain.

      you summarized my point, i think, somewhat superficially. i wanted to drive home the point with this post that jean charles de menezes may have perhaps been safer in london than he would have been in, say, sao paolo. and unlike britain, brazil is not even dealing with terroristic muslim suicide bombers infiltrating their country.

      many brazilians have spoken out against the london police, against british “intolerance”, etc, and of course the british police are being threatened with a lawsuit.

      i am trying to point out how much better trained and how much more prepared & professional british law enforcement is when compared to brazilian law enforcement.

      despite the freak shooting of jean charles de menezes, i would venture a guess that the vast majority of british still have confidence in their law enforcement to do the right thing. this is not the case in brazil, where (as i noted, polls say 9/10 have no confidence in them). reports indicate that there is a lack of training & professionalism in the brazilian police organization, coupled with a lack of inquiry into possible law enforcement wrongdoing. this means that many more innocent people and/or criminals are harmed and/or extrajudicially executed in brazil than in britain.

      given this understanding, i feel brazil is very much out of line in its recent criticisms of scotland yard. brazilian law enforcement isn’t living in the pressure-cooker of fighting international terrorists; yet amazingly–and this is just my point–the tragedy that happened in london to jean charles de menezes is practically the modus operandi for cops walking the beat in brazil.

      what happened to jean charles de menezes squares very tightly with what westerners, like myself and the british, call “the rule of law”. perhaps if the poor victim had more experience with this type of order in his own country, he would have behaved so as to still be alive today.

      overall, though, we do seem to agree on the larger and most pressing point: we must stop terrorism and protect our way of life.

      thanks for your comment.

    3. I visit Brasil every year and have asked Brasilian friends to name just ONE Brasilian shot and killed by Brasilian police in Brasil. None so far, although Jean Charles has become a cult hero throughout the country. A 19 year old Brasilian who stayed with me last summer said that as a result of his experiences in Brasil with Brasilian police even IF he had been requested by a British police officer to stop he would have “run like hell” out of habit. At least this is ONE Brasilian family who will see justice (and no doubt substantial “damages”) for the loss of an innocent family member at the hands of a police officer. One day Brasilians will have equal rights in their own country, but don’t hold your breath.