Public order moves towards permanence

An ugly relic of one of many attempts to impose order

[UPDATE DEC. 8, 2010 O Globo reported that the military police will impose order on vehicular traffic in the Complexo do Alemão and Complexo da Penha, which is usually the reponsibility of CET, Rio’s traffic police. Military police commander Mário Sérgio Duarte also said community safety councils will be set up to help with preventive work.]

When Eduardo Paes was sworn in as mayor in 2008, he inherited the carioca tradition whereby new mayors impose a choque de ordem, or “shock of order” on the city. Accordingly, the shock lasts for several months and then everything returns to the way it was before: street hawkers, beach chaos, homeless people, child jugglers at stoplights, trash, streets doubling as bathrooms.

Paes’ shock probably set a record, lasting so far about two years. Now he’s got a plan to permanently put aside the temporary. It draws on the success of the state public safety policy of territorial occupation, used to pacify areas of the city under drug traffickers’ thumbs. According to O Globo, Paes’ plan will begin next March with a pilot progam in Tijuca. The first UOP, or Unidade de Ordem Pública (public order unit) will consist of 100 specially-trained municipal guards who’ll keep order 24 hours a day in an area of 26,000 residents. Local issues include illegal parking, street hawkers, a homeless population, petty crime, and illegal truck deliveries.

The guards, who work without firearms, will be trained to approach people and make arrests in situations carrying no risk of armed confrontation. City hall plans to manage the UOPs based on performance and will map areas lacking order; statistics will be published. Currently Rio has 5,596 municipal guards, about 5,00o of whom patrol the streets. An additional 2,300 have passed an entrance exam and may be called up for the training program.

Paes told O Globo that he has no schedule as yet for extending the new plan to other areas of the city, as he expects to learn from the pilot program and then apply that experience elsewhere. “Rio isn’t Zurich or Geneva,” he added. “…we want the rules of civility without losing the carioca lifestyle.”

Rio’s municipal guard was created by mayor César Maia in 1993, as yet another police force in addition to the military police, the civil police, the traffic police, the federal police and the highway police. Most cariocas consider them inocuous and ignore their timid remonstrances. In Ipanema’s praça Nossa Senhora da Paz, for example, the guards usually stay inside a crumbling concrete shack watching television. Outside, citizens throw trash on the ground, don’t pick up after their dogs, and use the bushes as bathrooms.

Perhaps this is about to change.

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 Public order moves towards permanence

  1. Jessica says:

    Hi Julia! It was so nice to meet you a few weeks ago. Felicidades por tu blog.

    Interesting that the guards are unarmed, that seems like a key point in developing trust and transparency. But how does it impact the safety of the guards?

    I think I told you about the fellowship I’m working on for scholars who work on issues of Security, Drugs and Democracy in Latin America. Here is the link if you want to check it out:


    • Rio real says:

      Hi, great to hear from you, and thanks. It probably is a safety issue for them, but I imagine they’ll mostly be dealing with minor violations, of which there are many, as I described. Thanks for the link! If you have any ideas about grants to support this blog I’d love to hear them.

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