On May 6, residents of Rio de Janeiro Jacarezinho favela were awakened by a loud groan and the sound of gunfire. After the devastation and they found enough courage to get out of their homes, they came face-to-face with many bloody corpses scattered on the narrow streets of favela.
What he did was the result of the most dangerous police in the city to date.
Early in the morning, about 200 armed police officers seized Jacarezinho and loaded helicopters and armored vehicles in search of “suspects” from the “Red Command” – a terrorist group that now “controls” the favela. Within hours, 28 people, including a policeman, had died.
Violent police brutality, indiscriminate killings, and violations of civil rights are not uncommon in Rio’s favelas. According to a study by the Fogo Cruzado Institute, one “murder” – which results in at least three murders – was registered every week in Rio de Janeiro since 2016. Three out of four homicides took place in police operations.
However, a dangerous attack this month in Jacarezinho should not happen – according to the Supreme Court of Brazil.
In June 2020, Supreme Court Judge Edson Fachin ruled that, during a coronavirus infection, police officers should work in favelas only “exclusively.”
The decision had a profound effect on violence in many states in Rio. By September 2020, police killings had been reduced by 71 percent compared to the same period in 2019. But the peace did not last long. In October, a month after the acting ambassador, Cláudio Castro, went on strike, police resumed operations in Rio’s favelas. In the following months, the city saw almost one bomb blast once a day, according to a report by Geni, a research group at Federal Fluminense University (UFF).
This growth peaked in May 6th.
On the same day, the police conducted an “operation” in Jacarezinho not only in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, but also with unprecedented violence and violence. There were reports of frequent killings, and even a photo showing the body of a man “wanted” in a shameful place – possibly by the police who killed him. Houses were seized without permission, and one man was killed in the front yard, in front of an elderly relative.
It soon became apparent that a police officer had been shot in the head and killed earlier in the operation. This led many to think that the police had tortured the favela with force to avenge the death of their comrades.
But why did the police perform the operation in the first place, in the midst of a terrible epidemic and even the Supreme Court suspended it?
Police earlier said the operation was conducted as an investigation into not only drug trafficking, but also other serious crimes such as “petty kidnapping, murder and theft” that occur with people living in a favela. In a report released after the operation, he said the main purpose of the piercing was to arrest 21 people suspected of selling drugs. The only evidence he provided of the alleged perpetrators was their photos posted on social media that appeared to be armed.
At the end of the operation, police announced that in addition to the “killings” of 12 suspects, they seized 16 rifles, five rifles, one pistol, 12 grenades, 2 rounds of ammunition and other rounds of ammunition. While this can be seen as a positive outcome for police operations elsewhere, in Rio, where all gangs are heavily armed and the police confiscate large quantities of illegal weapons, they are not.
All in all, it was clear that the security forces tortured Jacarezinho not because he had a “special case” that required immediate and coercive action, but because he wanted to send a message to the citizens of the favela: we are in control and we choose who lives and dies in this region.
This, sadly, seems to be the reason why so many police officers in Rio have been in recent years. Indeed, investigators from UFF have surveyed more than 11,000 police officers in Rio de Janeiro from 2007 to date and found that only 1.7 percent of the operation “did well” – that is, for good reason, killing fewer people and injuring them. many weapons and drugs have been seized.
In a nutshell, Rio’s police operations are not carefully organized to deal with violence and drug trafficking and other crimes, but a way for the police to exercise power, intimidate people, and maintain the city’s favelas.
The project is part of a “war on drugs” in Brazil. But the Brazilian government’s insistence that drugs are a crime and not a public health problem does not help curb the violence in Rio’s cities – it is growing. Of course, many experts agree that crackdown on drugs is not just a good idea, but the only way to address the city’s violent crime – to pursue alternatives to education, public health and infrastructure, network construction, and police reform.
However, there is no doubt that Rio officials have changed their ways and started looking for new, non-violent solutions to crime and crime in the cities of the favelas soon.
This is because the right-wing President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro is not only looking at the murderous, unnecessary and incompetent police officers who are taking part in the Rio favelas, but actively promoting them.
The day before the May 6 operation in Jacarezinho, Bolsonaro met with the Rio ambassador to express his support. After the assassination, he praised the city’s security forces for its work and criticized “journalists” and “leftists” for treating those killed by police as “victims” and calling them “ordinary, honest citizens who respect the law and their citizens”.
Bolsonaro’s positive response to the operation that killed more than a dozen people and found nothing was not surprising. Since coming to power, the President has been aiding and abetting terrorist attacks on terrorists, whom he views as “criminals”.
Obviously, the Brazilian government’s tendency to respond to a violent and violent crisis in the favelas with more violence did not originate with Bolsonaro’s leadership.
Past leaders, as well as government officials, have also contributed to the violence in the media by their words and deeds. Former President Dilma Rousseff, for example, sent troops to seize favelas in Rio de Janeiro and subsequent ambassadors and mayors put behind them unnecessary but dangerous police duties.
Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, portraying thousands of poor and insecure people living in favelas as “gangsters” who should be subjected to coercion and disregard for their human rights, however, now sees little chance of Brazil breaking this cycle of violence.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor of Al Jazeera.