Security in Brazil: A Magic Moment for the city of God

The Economist notes that better security in favelas is leading to economic development for the middle class in the emerging markets. The specifics of the policing parallel what the Americans call counterinsurgency (COIN), as applied widely in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially with community policing.

“THANKS to a film (“City of God”) made in 2002, Cidade de Deus, a rundown housing project in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, became an internationally known symbol of the lawless urban squalor that has blighted Brazil’s most glamorous city for decades. The Comando Vermelho, a heavily armed gang of drug traffickers, dominated the lives of the 60,000 or so residents of Cidade de Deus and its surrounding favelas (the Brazilian term for the tightly packed self-built slums of the poor). The gangsters, some of them teenagers, could impose their reign of terror thanks to the brutal incompetence of the police and the venal indifference of the authorities. Some of these problems are repeated across Brazil’s cities. But they are particularly acute in Rio de Janeiro, which has suffered chronic misgovernment and decline since the capital moved to Brasília in 1960. Ahead of Rio’s bagging of the 2016 Olympic games last autumn, rivals muttered about its criminal violence. In the week before the Olympic committee’s decision, the New Yorker magazine ran a chilling account of a Rio drug lord and his fief. But Rio is undergoing a renaissance, one which even holds out hope for the 1m of the city’s 6m residents who live in favelas. Last year the police took control of Cidade de Deus—this time for keeps, they say. A force of 318 officers, backed by 25 patrol cars, is based in a new community- police station in a side street between two fetid, litter-strewn drainage channels. The result has been dramatic. In 2008 there were 29 murders in Cidade de Deus. So far this year there has been just one, and it involved a beating rather than a firearm, says José Beltrame, the security secretary in the Rio state government who is in charge of policing in the city. Other crime has fallen too.”

This is part of my survey of the 30 best articles from The Economist over the past two years to gain insight into whether Brazilian attitudes towards America have declined, and global attitudes towards Brazil — comments welcome!

Published by Janar Wasito

Janar Wasito is the manager of Magis Capital in San Diego, CA. He is a graduate of Harvard and Stanford Law School, and a former Marine Officer.

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