Rio’s many-armed police: a chance to work together, at last

Military police: one of four formal forces

Off the hook?

One of Brazil’s biggest problems is too much division of labor, so it’s heartening to read in today’s O Globo that in Rio, eight agencies and three levels of government will be brought together in a new Centro Integrado de Comando e Controle (CICC, the Portuguese acronym for Integrated Command and Control Center) At a cost of US$ 21 million equivalent, construction of the  center downtown begins this month and is set to be complete in March 2011. It will house administrative and emergency staff belonging to the military police, the fire department, the municipal civil defense agency, the traffic police, the civil police, the city ambulance service, and the federal highway police. The center was designed based on visits to similiar agencies in cities around the world, including New York, L.A. Washington D.C., Mexico City, Rome, Madrid, and Istanbul.

At last, there’s a chance these agencies will talk to each other.

With four different police forces, you’d think Rio has public safety locked up. But no; there’s a fifth one, the informal milícias. These murderous paramilitary groups monopolize the bottled gas business and extort payments from small businesses and transportation services, in exchange for “protection”; they may be even more of a challenge for the state public safety agency, than the drug traffickers now being kicked off favela hilltops. Last week two former military policemen, jailed for alleged militia activity in the violent western part of the city, made a prison break. One version has it they climbed over a back wall they were rebuilding; another, published in today’s O Globo, is that they paid US 118,000 equivalent to their jailers and walked out the front door of the prison in the Benfica neighborhood. One of the two is said to be heading up the west zone’s militia, which reportedly rakes in US$1.2 million a month, now that the former boss, Ricardo  “Batman” Teixeira da Cruz, another ex-military policeman, is in jail in the state of Mato Grosso.

This sort of behavior is why the UPP pacification process employs newly recruited and trained young military police men and women.

The CICC will be built near the Avenida Presidente Vargas, in an area called Cidade Nova, a locus of renovation visited in an earlier post This is where Rio’s city hall is located, as well as a new convention center It’s also where the 1879 vintage hospital school, the Hospital São Francisco de Assis, set to undergo renovation

And it’s the birthplace of samba, an oft-forgotten fact although it’s just down the street from the Sambadrome, inaugurated in 1984. A house in Praça Onze, now a mere name on a street sign, is where Donga and Mauro de Almeida composed Pelo Telefone in 1916. Praça Onze was a meeting place for Rio’s poorer residents to parade and dance at Carnival, but the area was razed in 1941 to make way for Avenida Presidente Vargas (It was also home to Jewish immigrants). Perhaps now it will recover some of its vitality.

Oh, and what was the samba Pelo Telefone about? How the police used to call ahead and warn gamblers that a raid was about to descend on them.

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.