The city of Rio de Janeiro and its periphery has almost seven million inhabitants. It is also the one that receives the most tourists in Brazil throughout the year and has a portion of very high-income people. However, the Rio de Janeiro favelas are home to 20% of those who live in the “Wonderful City”.
In the last 30 years, Rio de Janeiro has been listed as one of the most violent cities in the world. However, during 2022, the last year of the government of Jair Bolsonaro, who is domiciled in that city, registered fewer murders than in the previous three.
One in three violent deaths committed in the last four years in the city of Rio and its periphery was caused by the security forces, according to a study by the Fluminense Federal University that was released last Friday, the second anniversary of the deadliest police massacre in the history of the State.
On May 6, 2021, 28 civilians – most of them young people of African descent – and a police officer died in the Jacarezinho favela, located in the north of the city and where more than 60,000 people live in conditions of vulnerability and with the presence of complex drug trafficking crimes.
The police operation was an operation planned by the Rio de Janeiro Police, supposedly against drug traffickers. The action, according to the chief, “was intended to combat the recruitment of children and adolescents by a criminal gang,” but it ended up becoming the largest police massacre in the history of Rio de Janeiro, according to various Human Rights associations.* 100010*
For years Brazil’s powerful security forces have been among the most violent in the world. And Rio de Janeiro always ranked high. In the last four years, including the pandemic period, 5,958 people were killed in the city, of which 2,043 lost their lives in police operations.
That number of deaths due to police actions is more than a third of the murders occurred, and exceeds the indicators of other violent cities on the Latin American continent. A decade ago, in 2013, the uniformed had been responsible for 10% of violent deaths. Despite the fact that the population of the favelas had the same proportion and that drug groups such as the Comando Vermelho and other complex crime gangs controlled a large part of the illegal drug business.
In recent years, the authorities of the State of Rio de Janeiro refused the request of the Supreme Court of Justice that police officers be required to wear cameras on their uniforms. This is a measure that, in other states, such as São Paulo, managed to reduce deaths at the hands of uniformed officers.
For a part of the uniformed and for part of Brazilian society, “the good criminal It is the dead offender.” The campaign that brought Bolsonaro to the presidency was based on “improving security” by reducing controls on the police. In Brazil, videos went viral where agents killed suspected defenseless criminals without any legal consequences.
In five years, a hundred children and adolescents died in Rio at the hands of the Police. After analyzing the deadliest police operations in Rio in the last 15 years, researchers from the New Illegalities Study Group came to a chilling conclusion: “If before, most massacres were perpetrated by extermination groups, formed in their majority by active or reserve police, but off duty, today the massacres are committed mainly by service police in operations endorsed by their hierarchical superiors”, according to an article in the Spanish newspaper El País.
Judicial inaction is an important factor in police violence. Of the 28 deaths in Jacarezinho, 24 cases were archived.
The Group for the Study of New Illegalities states that “the police forces commit many more killings and cause many more fatalities than all the armed groups combined.”* 100024*
The neighborhoods controlled by the Comando Vermelho are the scene of the bloodiest operations of the security forces. Researchers from the Fluminense Federal University warn about a new phenomenon that contributes to the increase in lethality: they are what they call “police mega-matters”, which cause more than eight deaths in a single operation.
The A report from that university, called “Police Massacres in Rio de Janeiro”, affirms that since 2020 there have been seven operations that have ended with more than eight deaths when in the previous decade it was one.
On the other hand, he says that deaths at the hands of uniformed officers began to rise when the authorities withdrew “an incentive they gave to the police units that carried out fewer armed confrontations.” In other words, the work of prevention, containment, prior intelligence was rewarded, which is the main mission of a police force.
Then, removing that incentive, violent deaths increased again because, in addition, in In 2018, Bolsonaro added army troops to the police forces in the favelas. In the midst of a pandemic, the Supreme Court forced the restriction of police and military operations. The result was that in 2022 police deaths were reduced compared to those produced between 2018 and 2021.
Brasilfavela Rio de Janeiro