Wikileaks out of Rio de Janeiro: 2009 pacification report from consul


U.S. consul Dennis W. Hearne’s September 2009 report on Rio de Janeiro’s pacification program is excellent; if only it were more recent!

This and other documents have been discusssed in Brazilian blogs and the press, here and here, for example. In response to the leaks, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon published this article in the Dec. 2 Folha de São Paulo.

At the time Hearne wrote his September report, Rio had but four UPPs, or  pacification units, and taking down the drug traffic of the Complexo do Alemão was no more than a pipe dream. Hearne quotes state public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame as calling that part of Rio “the epicenter of the fight”, stating that taking the complex of favelas would entail a vast operation with a potentially “traumatic”  scale of violence. According to Hearne, Beltrame expected the invasion to occur in early 2010.

From a detailed discussion in the cable of the state government’s plans and priorities, it appears that Beltrame at the time expected to enter the Alemão earlier this year because he thought the number of UPPs would be limited to 12 or so. But this was later officially increased to a goal of 40  by 2014, a decision which must have postponed the Alemão until a wave of vehicle torchings in late November of this year made an invasion unavoidable; at the moment 13 favelas have pacification units and Alemão is already transitioning toward one in 2011.

The cable contains no surprises, and its final comment provides a good summary of the challenges that the state pacification program faces, as seen in RioRealblog and much of the Brazilian press. “If, however, the program wins over ‘hearts and minds’ in the favelas,” Hearne concludes, “and continues to enjoy genuine support from the governor and the mayor, bolstered by private enterprise lured by the prospects of reintegrating some one million favela residents into mainstream markets, this program could remake the social and economic fabric of Rio de Janeiro. [The consulate] will work closely with the relevant state authorities to facilitate exchanges, seminars, and institutional partnerships towards this end.”

Here are some additional noteworthy points:

  • it cites analysts saying that the Rio economy could grow by US$ 21 billion equivalent if and when its favelas are integrated with the rest of the city, as current policies intend. In addition, tax revenues could increase by US$ 45 million equivalent.
  • it refers to the pacification process by the English-language term “clear and hold”, described as “pushing criminal elements out of the community, establishing a permanent police and government presence, then providing basic services and civic privileges to favela residents”. As the Brazilian press has already noted, Hearne, whose last post was in Afghanistan, compares Rio’s public safety push to work he’s seen there and and in Iraq.
  • it quotes Beltrame as follows: “‘You cannot imagine what government neglect of the favelas ha[s] done to this city. It is a failure of public service,’ he said. Stating the Rio government was now ‘at war,’ Beltrame explained, ‘We have a few hundred criminals causing terror in a few million.'”
  • it notes that one UPP commander, Colonel José Carvalho, is a former U.N. peacekeeping commander, and that he said “We need fresh, strong minds, not a Rambo… The older generation of cops is more oriented to kicking down doors and shooting people.” This is in fact just what some Complexo do Alemão residents have complained about in regard to the BOPE (special ops battalion) behavior during the late November invasion.
  • Carvalho also is reported to have stated that active UPP officers are “subject to internal affairs undercover operations, to ensure  UPP officers are not abusing their power within the favelas.” RioRealblog hasn’t seen this information elsewhere; it appears to be a sensible response to the real danger that the freshly- and especially-trained new recruits who make up the UPP corps could become corrupt.
  • the report cites statistics from the state government’s Instituto de Segurança Pública showing an increase in robberies in residences and businesses from 2008 to 2009, and quotes Beltrame and crime and police specialist Julita Lemgruber as saying this was caused by the UPPs. However, crime of almost every type has dropped this year compared to 2009.

About Rio real

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

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