None of this shall come to pass…

Is the future the past?

Rio de Janeiro, 2017

The Olympics are over, a knockout success. The city was peaceful and tourism increased exponentially. A lot of people made a lot of money.

Lula is still retired, since Sérgio Cabral is president of Brazil, now almost at the end of his term. It’s been good for Rio to have a carioca president; he’s spread UPPs throughout the entire country and the city became a national model. In the last couple of years Cabral’s attention was diverted from public safety issues to the economy.

Halfway through his second term as mayor, Eduardo Paes was elected governor of the state of Rio in 2014, given the success of his “shock of order” city cleanup, combined with the state government’s public safety improvements. His replacement wasn’t able to continue with the “shock”, however. The beaches are overrun with unlicensed kiosks, supplied by trucks illegally parked along beach avenues. Street hawkers are everywhere. Many municipal guards have gone to work for the military police, which pays better and has expanded operations in the interior of the state of Rio. The economy has slowed, and the few municipal guards now available to control the chaos receive a salary bonus from anyone wanting to put up a tent on the beach to sell food, drinks and merchandise. The city’s dogs, again permitted on the sand, couldn’t be happier.

As governor, Paes is no longer working with José Mariano Beltrame, Cabral’s state public safety secretary, the man who initiated the pacification of Rio’s favelas. President Dilma took Beltrame to Brasília in 2011 to head up the UPP expansion, as National Public Safety Secretary. He stayed there. During the early years of occupation and pacification in Rio, the police arrested dozens of criminals and reduced crime rates, but things came to a standstill in 2012. Drug traffickers are still exiled in neighboring cities and the Complexo do Alemão favelas. With the help of the army, they presented no problem during the World Cup nor during year’s Olympics.

“Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.” –Francis Bacon

But now that Rio is no longer Brazil’s showcase and the federal government is busy with other issues, criminals are returning to their old haunts, many of which have been taken over by paramilitary groups. The confrontation expected in the Complexo do Alemão between the military police and drug traffickers didn’t occur, but now there are many small territorial wars among militias and traffickers. Residents in these areas are subject to curfews, extortion and violent forms of “justice”.

Increased integration among police forces and with the judiciary system was taking place, but despite the fact that integration was successful at the time of the Olympics, it never reached the degree necessary for optimal police intelligence and agility. In the judiciary, impunity still reigns.

Ricardo Henriques, who headed up the Social UPP program, works with Beltrame in Brasília; the concept which he preached in Rio, of integrating the city such that government social programs work in favelas exactly as in the formal parts of the city, is expanding throughout Brazil. Criticism is beginning to be heard, however, with the return of urban violence. Sílvia Ramos, his undersecretary, has retired and is writing a book about the Social UPP program in Rio. Colonel Mário Sérgio Duarte, the philosopher-cop who led the military police in the golden years of Rio’s UPPs, is also retired and writing. The social UPP was successful in in the occupied and pacified favelas, but Rio still has a large underemployed population in other neighborhoods and favelas. The general level of education is still deficient and doesn’t meet local demand for skilled workers.

RioRealblog’s opinion poll shows that half of the voters expects a successful  transformation of Rio de Janeiro. The other half either disagrees fully, or thinks we’ll have partial results.

A partial result is the above scenario.

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” –Francis Bacon

In Medellín, one of the cities that inspired Rio de Janeiro’s public safety policy, time has indeed innovated. According to a report by the NGO Medellín Como Vamos, Colombian statistics showed a significant drop in homicide rates starting in 2003, which came down to a steady 34 or so per 100,000 inhabitants between 2005 and 2007. In 2008, murders began to increase, and last year grew a frightening 85.8% over the same period in 2008. Other crimes also increased.

No one factor explains this sad phenomenon, but Colombian and Brazilian specialists say that mayor Sergio Fajardo’s departure from office in 2007 and the subsequent lack of focus, management and leadership were fundamental. In addition, gangs that had been destabilized by bosses’ arrests began to function again. The report states that “once the narcotraffic  chiefs are arrested, these organizations splinter and become small criminal bands and businesses that are more difficult to control.”

“If we do not maintain justice, justice will not maintain us.”Francis Bacon

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.

2 Responses to None of this shall come to pass…

  1. tite says:

    Brilliant Julia!

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