Gangs and Violence in Brazil


Published on

Final paper for my Brazil History and Culture class that outlines the prevalence of gang violence in Brazil and its impact on the country.

Published in: Travel
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Gangs and Violence in Brazil

  1. 1. Gangs, Violence, and Drug Crimes: The Impact of Corruption on Brazil<br />Samantha Luber<br />December 15th, 2010<br />Latin American and Caribbean Studies 483<br />Jean M. Hébrard<br />Gangs, Violence, and Drug Crimes: The Impact of Corruption on Brazil<br />The ongoing violence and drug crimes in Brazil are prevalent throughout today’s media coverage of the country. Stemming from neglect of the Brazil’s poor neighborhoods during its dictatorship period (1978-1988) and the growth of the market for drug trafficking, the rise of gangs, violence, and drug crimes in the country began in the early 1980’s (Arias). Even today, corrupt political leaders and a lack of resources to enforce laws and improve living conditions allow gangs to maintain control over poor communities, creating intolerable miserable conditions for the residents (Barrionuevo). Despite the adverse situation in Brazil, considerable action is being taken by the Brazilian government with the aid of other countries to address the gang violence and crime. Through an understanding of the factors that placed and continue to keep Brazil in this unfavorable state, effort can be made to eliminate these influencing factors and address the prevalent issues of gangs, violence, and drug crime in Brazil.<br />Neglect of the poor neighborhoods, or favelas, by the Brazilian government during its dictatorship period and the growth of the drug market are responsible for the rapid growth of gangs. During the 1960’s, Brazilian politicians used a policy of isolation and exclusion of favelas from the major cities instead of working to eliminate these poor, unsafe communities (“City of God”). Without the proper education for work opportunities available at the time, many Brazilians were forced to move into poor communities. As the favela populations grew, sewage, water, and electricity problems grew (Arias). In their struggle for survival in the favelas’ dangerous living conditions, inhabitants turned to gangs for protection (Barrionuevo). Furthermore, the increased profitability of drug trafficking in the 1980’s allowed gangs to rise to positions of power in the poor communities. Taking advantage of their environment, drug traffickers often employed favela inhabitants and provided assistance to the poor to gain community support (Arias). As the popularity of gangs and drug crimes increased, the police had more difficulty entering poor neighborhoods without the strong oppositions of gang violence towards law enforcement officers and residents, unhappy with the government for “abandoning” them in their struggle for survival in the favelas (Arias). Consequently, police raids of favelas often ended brutally with loss of law enforcement officers and citizens of the community. In many instances, inhabitants sided with gang members out of fear and anger towards the police for violating their safety (Barrionuevo). Corrupt politicians also helped strengthen the dominance of gangs and drug traffickers by officer incentives to these criminals in exchange for political support (Arias). With little opposition from the government and the high profitability of the drug market, gangs remained in control of the favelas. <br />Today, inadequate governmental officials, a lack of resources to address the socioeconomic problems of the favelas, and insufficient law enforcement force allow gang presence and drug trafficking to remain predominant throughout Brazil. Although the government is aware of the gang and drug problems in favelas, the upper-level politicians do not have effective control over lower-level political leaders of cities (Arias). Without guidance, city leaders have resorted to brutal operations in attempt to consolidate favelas to limit gang prevalence. However, consolidation of drug gangs has only caused favela conditions to worsen by provoking crime and violence in retaliation to police brutality. Furthermore, police brutality towards gang members and drug traffickers has resulted in the violation of favela residents’ rights (Arias). Although some police raids are successful in removing gang members, police forces often lack the resources to maintain communities once the gangs have been removed. In addition to the inadequacy of government officials working to resolve the gang problems, many corrupt politicians and police officers accept bribes to reduce law enforcement in favelas that hinders drug operations. In fact, Rio de Janeiro’s former governor was convicted of corruption for providing aid to drug gangs and money laundering (Domit). Even though the Brazilian government has made efforts to eradicate gangs and drug traffickers from some favelas, the country lacks the financial resources to improve the living conditions of poor communities and hire law enforcement officers to address such problems in all of the favelas. According to Rio de Janeiro’s security secretary, for decades, “a lack of day-to-day police presence in the slums allowed gangs to control them like city-states, deploying heavy weapons to protect their drug trafficking operations. Gang leaders have dispensed city services while patrolling the slums with rifles hanging off their backs” (Domit). Furthermore, without police presence in the poor neighborhoods, doctors and professors, fearing their safety, avoid the communities, making health and educational services unavailable to inhabitants (Barrionuevo). Without these services, inhabitants have no choice but to continue relying on drug gangs, which provide these services in exchange for community support. Clearly, without the ability to devote further financial resources to improve the favelas, government leaders cannot reduce the gang and drug trafficking problems of these communities. Easy access to weapons and high youth populations in the country also contribute to increasing numbers of drug gangs in Brazil (Committee on Foreign Affairs). The combination of the government’s failure to effectively address the living conditions of the favelas and enforce laws on the gangs of these poor neighborhoods allows Brazil to maintain its present state of gang dominance, resulting in violence and drug crime.<br />A result of gang and drug trafficking prevalence in Brazil, the living conditions in the poor neighborhoods of cities are treacherous, marked with violence and violation of human rights. As a result of gang violence, Rio de Janeiro has “one of the highest murder rates in the world” (Domit). As law enforcement officers work to arrest drug traffickers and gang members, the violence in favelas has increased in retaliation. In response to police presence in favelas, armed gang members have attacked police stations, cars, and buses, often setting them alight (Yapp). Furthermore, as police officials work to rid communities of gangs, residents suffer from the violence of police raids as well as the retaliation riots of gang members. As a result, the civil and human rights of poor community inhabitants are frequently violated (Arias). Although local political leaders often take their positions with the desire to improve the quality of life of these inhabitants, these leaders face financial pressure from the state as well as brides and threats from drug traffickers in the area, making it difficult to address the gang issues in the area (Committee on Foreign Affairs). Until the gang and drug crime issues of Brazil are addressed, the residents of poor communities continue to suffer in their current living conditions.<br />Even though the gang and drug problems are widespread, the government of Brazil, with the aid of other countries, is taking steps to address its problems through the improvement of infrastructures in the favelas and the implementation of law enforcement against gangs and drug trafficker. Over the past two years, the government has made considerable efforts to pacify the violent slums of Rio de Janiero in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games. In fact, the police has rid over three dozen communities in Rio de Janiero of drug gangs and installed permanent police forces to maintain the safety of these communities (Domit). Although taking law enforcement action against gangs causes temporarily increased violence in gang’s retaliation, many community residents are supportive of the government’s attempt to reduce gangs and drug traffickers’ presence. In addition to the residents’ support, millions of dollars have been donated to aid the Brazilian governments’ efforts by companies, such as Coca-Cola, to finance police equipment (Barrionuevo).<br />In order to reduce corruption in police officials, many of the law enforcement officers are “purposely recruits right out the police academy, before they are tempted to accept drug money to supplement relatively low wages” (Barrionuevo). In their support of the governments’ efforts, many Brazilians are contributing to a social movement for political change, such as a stronger relationship between high-level and low-level government representatives. The government is also working to improve living conditions in poor communities to reduce inhabitants’ dependence on the gangs for safety and jobs by implementing projects in community, garbage removal, and delivering mail to bring residents together (Arias). In addition, Brazilian writers, musicians, and artists are creating compositions to support Brazil’s movement to eliminate gangs and drug trafficking and to raise awareness of the socioeconomic issues of the country in their demand for change (Arias). In addition to the current actions being taken, numerous plans are being proposed to further improve the conditions of poor communities. Enrique Arias, a highly-respected professor whose research focuses on addressing the socioeconomic problems of Latin American countries, proposes the idea of a local area network, in which the condition of the community can be improved by organizing relationships between local politicians and community members to help politicians provide the appropriate benefits to the community. The system works by bringing residents together in a mutual self-help program (Arias). Arias emphasizes that the link between the government and community members links “state reform and mobilization and can help sustain these efforts over the long term in the face of high levels of violence” (Arias).oDuty: improve conditions by organizing rlshps with politicians to obtain benefits, in mutual self-help programs (Arias)] <br />With positive response of Brazilians to the government’s actions to address the country’s problems and the financial support of generous companies, continued efforts can only continue to improve the country’s current state. <br />Although the current state of Brazil is not ideal, actions are being taken to address the circumstances from which gang prevalence, violence, and drug crimes arose as well as hinder the ongoing conditions in the country allowing Brazil to maintain this unfavorable state.<br />Works Cited<br />Arias, Enrique Desmond. Crime, Violence, And Democracy: The State And Political Order In Brazilian Shantytowns. , 2001.<br />Barrionuevo, Alexei. "In Rough Slum, Brazil’s Police Try Soft Touch." New York Times Online. New York Times, 10 Oct. 2010. Web. 6 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />Bryant, Clifton D.. 21st Century Sociology: a Reference Handbook. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2007.<br />Domit, Myrna. "Brazil Military Says It Cornered Rio Drug Gangs." New York Times Online. New York Times, 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />Domit, Myron, and Alexei Barrionuevo. "Brazilian Forces Claim Victory in Gang Haven." New York Times Online. New York Times, 28 Nov. 2010. Web. 6 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />E.R.P Vieira (Ed.), City of God in Several Voices: Brazilian Social Cinema as Action, Nottingham, Critical, Cultural and Communications Press, 2005 (you have the introduction on of God preview.pdf )<br />Howell, James C, and Scott H Decker. The Youth Gangs, Drugs, And Violence Connection. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999<br />Miguez, Cristina. Changing Aesthetics, Ethics, And Politics In Latin American Crime Cinema And Narrative. , 2009.<br />Souto, Luiza. "Polícia Apreende Fuzis, Granadas E Drogas No Complexo Do Alemão, No Rio - 29/11/2010." Folha Online. Folha, 29 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />"Video: Rio Gangs Flee as Police Raid Slum - Telegraph." Telegraph Online. Daily Telegraph, 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />Violence In Central America: Briefing And Hearing Before the Subcommittee On the Western Hemisphere of the Committee On Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Tenth Congress, First Session, June 26, 2007. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 2007.<br />Yapp, Robin. "Brazil Police Claim Victory in Drugs 'war' - Telegraph." Telegraph Online. Daily Telegraph, 28 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />Yapp, Robin. "Brazil: Rio Violence Forces Military Intervention - Telegraph." Telegraph Online. Daily Telegraph, 25 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />Yapp, Robin. "Dilma Rousseff: Profile of the Woman Who Will Lead Brazil in Security Challenges - Telegraph." Telegraph Online. Daily Telegraph, 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />Yapp, Robin. "Rio Favela Violence: Booming Brazil Faces Fight to Improve Security Image - Telegraph." Telegraph Online. Daily Telegraph, 25 Dec. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>. <br />Yapp, Robin. "Rio Favela Violence: Police Take Control of Gang Stronghold - Telegraph." Telegraph Online. Daily Telegraph, 26 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. <>.<br />