Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Cariocas’ hopes start to come true

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on December 2, 2010

by H.J. for The Economist – Americas View, November 30th, 2010.

Every four years, just before newly elected state and federal governments take over, Rio de Janeiro’s drug gangs start to throw their weight around. This time has been no exception. Just over a week ago, they began hijacking cars and buses, ordering out their occupants and setting them alight, in a show of force and an attempt to terrorise the city. They have become more media-savvy than they were the last time around: rather than murdering policemen, as they did in 2006, they are trying to demonstrate their ability to paralyse the city during the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

The government has also changed its strategy since then. The last time, police went into the favelas (shantytowns) all guns blazing; killed residents (not all of whom were gangsters); and pulled out weeks or months later once the status quo was restored. But Rio has now developed a public-security policy, and gained the political will to see it through. One at a time, thirteen favelas have been endowed with “Pacification Police Units” (UPPs), a permanent community-policing presence that can stop drug dealers from toting heavy weapons and terrorising residents. The plan is to reach 40 slums by 2014. Once public order is securely restored, health-care, community centres and so on will follow—and eventually, it is hoped, there will be no space left in which the bad guys can operate. (continue reading… )

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