Though it’s an issue that has been widely reported on of late, the level of police violence in Brazil is shocking nonetheless. From 2009 to 2013 police in the country killed at least 11,197 people, an average of six people per day over five years.
The staggering figure comes from the latest annual report by the Brazilian Public Security Forum (FBSP). While the full FBSP publication is set to be released later today, it has already made this morning’s headlines in the Brazilian press.
The total of those killed at the hands of police authorities last year was 2,212, a slight drop from 2,332 the year before but slightly more than the 2,177 seen in 2009. As Folha reports, Rio de Janeiro was the state with the most police killings in 2013, even though the number fell to 416 from 1,048 in 2009. FBSP Director Samira Bueno described this drop to the paper as an indicator of the success of Rio’s Police Pacification Units (UPPs), “the only good news” in a wave of bad news.
In São Paulo, the figure dropped from 566 to 364, but recent numbers are less hopeful. The state’s Public Safety Department just released statistics showing that Paulista police killed more people between January and September than they did during the same period for the past 10 years, including twice as many as the same period in 2013.
O Globo provides a comparative look at the Forum figures, noting that Brazilian police killed more victims in the five-year period than United States police have in the last 30 years (11,090), despite the U.S. having a population roughly 50 percent larger.
Another striking feature of the report is the FBSP’s estimates regarding the economic impact of violent crime in the country. As Agencia Brasil and Veja report, last year violence cost the country approximately $100 billion, approximately 5.4 percent of its GDP.
The Forum report fits well with the recent death squad-style killings in the northeastern city of Belem, allegedly committed by groups of off-duty policemen seeking revenge for the murder of a colleague.
Also relevant is a recently-broadcast NPR report on violence in the country by South America Correspondent Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who reminds Brazil-watchers that not all of the country’s citizens experience insecurity in the same way. The piece notes that over the past decade, homicides among white Brazilians have fallen 24 percent, while among the country’s black population they have increased by 40 percent.
For Robert Muggah of the Rio-based Igarape Institute, the difference has to do with economic inequality. As Muggah remarked to NPR: “Those who are white tend to be able to afford themselves and avail themselves of greater security, and we are seeing reductions in homicides[…]Those who are black and who are unable to — as our societies become more and more unequal — are less able to secure those public goods, and as a result are seeing homicide rates going up.”
- Also on Brazil, O Globo reports on a new study on the application of Brazil’s much-lauded freedom of information law commissioned by the Fundação Getúlio Vargas. According to FGV researchers, 69 percent of freedom of information requests submitted to various state and federal institutions were answered, while 57 percent of responses were fully granted. The study found wide variation across states, however, with Rio officials answering 38 percent and fully granting just 18 percent of requests.
- The U.S. government is reportedly reviewing the democracy promotion work of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with a view towards shifting some secret programs in hostile countries -- like the failed “Cuban Twitter” effort -- under the umbrella of the State Department. According to a USAID statement, the agency said it will continue democracy promotion programs, but would pursue a balance between its own goals and the safety and risks of USAID contractors.
- Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto may be in China for trade talks, but protests against his handling of the investigation into the 43 missing students in Guerrero, as well as over allegations of corruption, have continued in his absence. Animal Politico reports that protests led by students and relatives of the missing victims in Acapulco succeeded in shutting down the city’s airport for three hours. Meanwhile, the president has come under increasing pressure to explain this weekend’s Aristegui Noticias report revealing that a $7 million mansion owned by the Peña Nieto family was built and is registered under the name of a company that recently won a controversial bid to build a controversial high-speed rail system. While the president canceled the contract in response to allegations of backroom deals, the Wall Street Journal reports that a Chinese partner of the company is threatening to pursue legal action against the president for the cancelation. The Guardian notes that the Peña Nieto administration has issued a statement claiming that the house belongs to his wife, First Lady Angelica Rivera, who has been paying it off in installments since January 2012.
- In today’s New York Times, Enrique Krauze has an op-ed comparing the likely killing of the 43 Guerrero students with a 1967 massacre of peasants in the city of Atoyac, near Acapulco, an incident which “unleashed the Mexican Left,” in his words. For Krauze, the student massacre bears traces of this same political violence, as well as the work of drug cartels looking to crush revolutionary elements that are “bad for business.”
- A week after being diagnosed with what doctors called an “infectious fever” and colitis, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez was released from the hospital on Sunday. However, according to La Nacion, her medical team has ordered her to rest for the next ten days. The AP reports that Argentines are largely unfazed by her latest ailment, a likely result of her frequent health issues.
- In a Razon Publica column, Dejusticia researcher Nelson Camilo Sanchez attempts to paint a more nuanced picture of Colombia’s conflict victims than the one depicted in local and international press, noting victims’ groups wide variety in demands and backgrounds as well as the complexities associated with implementing reparations under the country’s new Victims’ Law.
- El Espectador reports that today is a “historic day” for Colombia, as senators in the country are set to begin debate over a proposal to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, an initiative which has the clear support of President Juan Manuel Santos.
- UNASUR Secretary General Ernesto Samper appears to be trying to restart failed talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. As El Universal reports, Samper took advantage of a meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Monday to call for a “grand social pact” to guarantee the integrity of elections and government institutions, as well as “a series of measures to adjust the economy, which are needed.”
- The government of Haiti has indicated dissatisfaction with a Dominican Constitutional Tribunal ruling which effectively withdraws the country’s recognition of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Proceso also reports that Haitian Foreign Minister Duly Brutus told reporters the individuals who are affected by the Dominican Republic’s recent citizenship policies are in fact Dominican, perfectly illustrating how this population is at risk of becoming essentially stateless. Meanwhile the Open Society Justice Initiative has a good explanation for why the Constitutional Tribunal’s IACHR ruling is invalid, noting that the country’s recognition of the regional court was conducted in accordance with the constitution at the time, and that the Tribunal itself has consistently recognized the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.
- Authorities in Trinidad and Tobago are preparing to launch a massive immigration crackdown, giving the country’s estimated 110,000 undocumented immigrants until January to resolve their legal status or face deportation in “door-to-door” raids, according to local paper Newsday. But while authorities in the Caribbean nation say a wave of undocumented immigration is fueling an increase in crime, InSight Crime points out the flaws in this argument.