Is there no finish to Rio de Janeiro’s cycle of violence?

On May 6, residents of Rio de Janeiro’s Jacarezinho favela have been woke up by gut-wrenching screams and sounds of gunshots. Once the mayhem subsided and so they gathered sufficient braveness to step outdoors their properties, they got here head to head with dozens of bloodied corpses scattered within the favela’s slim alleyways.

What they have been witnessing was the aftermath of essentially the most deadly police operation within the metropolis to this point.

In the early hours of the morning, some 200 closely armed cops stormed Jacarezinho with bulletproof helicopters and armoured automobiles in the hunt for “suspects” from the “Red Command” – the felony group that’s presently “governing” the favela. A couple of hours later, 28 individuals, together with a police officer, have been dead.

Violent police operations, extrajudicial killings and different state-sanctioned human rights violations are hardly a uncommon incidence in Rio’s favelas. According to analysis by the Fogo Cruzado Institute, not less than one “bloodbath” – an motion that ends in the killing of not less than three individuals – per week was registered within the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro since 2016. Three out of 4 of those mass killings reportedly befell throughout police operations.

Nevertheless, this month’s lethal raid in Jacarezinho mustn’t have occurred – in line with the Brazilian Supreme Court.

In June 2020, Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin dominated that, in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, police ought to conduct operations in favelas solely in “completely distinctive instances”.

The ruling had an instantaneous and substantial impact on the degrees of violence in Rio’s quite a few favelas. By September 2020, there was a 71 % discount in police killings in contrast with the identical interval in 2019. But the calm didn’t final lengthy. In October, one month after the performing governor, Cláudio Castro, took workplace, the police as soon as once more began repeatedly conducting operations in Rio’s favelas. In the next months, the town noticed a mean of almost one raid every single day, in line with a report by Geni, a analysis group on the Federal Fluminense University (UFF).

This escalation reached a brand new peak on May 6.

On that day, the police carried out an “operation” in Jacarezinho not solely in blatant disregard of the Supreme Court’s ruling, but additionally with unprecedented aggression and violence. There have been experiences of a number of abstract executions, and even {a photograph} exhibiting the corpse of an individual “posed” in a humiliating place – presumably by the officers who killed him. Homes have been raided with out warrants, and one individual was killed inside a personal residence, in entrance of an aged relative.

Soon it emerged {that a} police officer was shot within the head and killed on the very starting of the operation. This led many to conclude that the police attacked the favela with such drive to avenge the loss of life of their colleague.

But why did the police conduct this operation within the first place, in the course of a devastating pandemic and regardless of a Supreme Court choice banning it?

The police initially claimed that the operation was carried out as a part of an investigation not solely into drug trafficking, but additionally different severe crimes reminiscent of “soliciting of minors, homicides and robberies” dedicated by individuals residing within the favela. In the report they issued after the operation, nonetheless, they claimed that the principle goal of the raid was to arrest 21 people suspected of drug trafficking. The solely proof they supplied for the alleged felony actions of those individuals was images of them posted on social media by which they seemed to be armed.

At the tip of the operation, the police introduced that on prime of killing greater than two dozen “suspects”, they confiscated 16 pistols, 5 rifles, one submachine gun, 12 grenades, 2 shotguns and a few ammunition. While this can be thought-about a profitable end result for a police operation elsewhere, in Rio, the place all felony teams are closely armed and the police repeatedly confiscate giant arsenals of unlawful weapons, it’s hardly newsworthy.

All in all, it was clear that the security forces carried out this raid on Jacarezinho not as a result of they’d “a fully distinctive case” at hand that necessitated rapid and forceful motion, however as a result of they wished to ship a message to the favela’s residents: we’re in management and we resolve who lives and who dies on this neighborhood.

This, sadly, seems to have been the reasoning behind most police operations in Rio lately. Indeed, researchers from the UFF have analysed greater than 11,000 police actions in Rio de Janeiro from 2007 to this point and located that only one.7 % of those operations have been “profitable” – that’s, had an outlined motivation, induced a low variety of deaths and accidents, and resulted in giant quantities of weapons and medicines being seized.

In sum, police operations in Rio will not be fastidiously deliberate actions aiming to curb violence and successfully deal with drug trafficking and different crimes, however a manner for the police to point out energy, terrify the inhabitants into submission, and maintain tabs on the town’s favelas.

These operations are additionally a part of the Brazilian authorities’ decades-old “conflict on medicine”. But the Brazilian state’s insistence on treating medicine as a felony challenge slightly than a public health downside will not be serving to curb violence in Rio’s favelas – it’s really fuelling it. Indeed, most specialists agree that decriminalising medicine is not only a good suggestion, however most likely the one approach to begin coping with the issue of violence within the metropolis – to be adopted by different initiatives, reminiscent of funding in education, public healthcare and infrastructure, the constructing of social security nets, and police reform.

It is, nonetheless, unlikely that the authorities in Rio will change their methods and begin in search of new, non-violent methods to finish violence and criminality within the metropolis’s favelas within the close to future.

This is as a result of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro will not be solely turning a blind eye to lethal, pointless and counterproductive police operations carried out in Rio’s favelas, however actively encouraging them.

The day earlier than the May 6 operation in Jacarezinho, Bolsonaro met with Rio’s governor in an obvious present of assist. After the bloodbath, he congratulated the town’s security forces on the operation and criticised the “media” and the “left” for treating those that have been killed by police as “victims” and equating them to “extraordinary, sincere residents who respect the legislation and their fellow residents”.

Bolsonaro’s constructive response to an operation that resulted in additional than two dozen deaths and achieved nearly nothing was not shocking. Since taking workplace, the president has constantly supported the violent actions of security forces in opposition to favela residents, who he sees collectively as “bandits”.

Of course, the Brazilian state’s tendency to reply to the issue of violence and criminality within the favelas with extra violence didn’t begin with Bolsonaro’s presidency.

Previous presidents, and state officers, additionally contributed to violence within the favelas with their rhetoric and actions. Former President Dilma Rousseff, for instance, despatched the military to occupy the favelas in Rio de Janeiro and successive governors and mayors put their assist behind inconsequential however lethal police operations.

Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, portray 1000’s of poor and susceptible individuals residing within the favelas as “bandits” who have to be handled utilizing drive and with no consideration for his or her human rights, nonetheless, is now making certain that there’s even much less probability for Brazil to interrupt this cycle of violence.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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