Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro

Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, and Public Security

Enrique Desmond Arias
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro
    Book Description:

    Taking an ethnographic approach to understanding urban violence, Enrique Desmond Arias examines the ongoing problems of crime and police corruption that have led to widespread misery and human rights violations in many of Latin America's new democracies. Employing participant observation and interview research in three favelas (shantytowns) in Rio de Janeiro over a nine-year period, Arias closely considers the social interactions and criminal networks that are at the heart of the challenges to democratic governance in urban Brazil.Much of the violence is the result of highly organized, politically connected drug dealers feeding off of the global cocaine market. Rising crime prompts repressive police tactics, and corruption runs deep in state structures. The rich move to walled communities, and the poor are caught between the criminals and often corrupt officials. Arias argues that public policy change is not enough to stop the vicious cycle of crime and corruption. The challenge, he suggests, is to build new social networks committed to controlling violence locally. Arias also offers comparative insights that apply this analysis to other cities in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0513-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE: Departure
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Thinking about Social Violence in Brazil
    (pp. 1-17)

    Recently, drug traffickers based in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have attacked government buildings, bombed buses, and successfully ordered widespread business closings.¹ Over the past decade, murder rates have averaged 50 per 100,000, in line with the most violent U.S. cities, and overall rates may actually be even higher as a result of increasing rates of disappearances. In poor districts, murder rates can exceed 150 per 100,000 inhabitants.² Indeed, riding this wave of criminal and police violence, human rights abuse has increased in Brazil since its transition to democracy two decades ago.³ Things have gotten so bad that an enraged press...

  6. ONE Setting the Scene: Continuities and Discontinuities in a “Divided City”
    (pp. 18-38)

    On 17 July 2003,O Globo, Rio de Janeiro’s leading newspaper, reported that the wealthiest portion of the city’s exclusive Zona Sul (South Zone) had the highest Human Development Index in the world as compared to full-scale nation-states. With a score of .988, this region of the city easily beat out Norway, the world leader, in terms of such factors as literacy, life span, and health care.O Globoecstatically reported:

    This one is worth commemorating by singing “The Girl from Ipanema” and forgetting those problems typical of day-to-day life in the Zona Sul, like traffic jams, beggars, and informal...

  7. TWO Network Approach to Criminal Politics
    (pp. 39-60)

    The challenge of this book is explaining the resilience and extensiveness of criminal activity under a consolidating democratic system, despite an international consensus to control drug trafficking and a willingness on the part of governments to use high levels of force to bring crime under control. Essential to understanding the persistence of violence in Brazil is an examination of the necessary links that criminals sustain with actors in state and society—actors who have reciprocal interests in maintaining connections to criminals in order to accomplish personal and political goals. This occurs in an environment where state power has dramatically changed...

  8. THREE Tubarão
    (pp. 61-96)

    In the early morning hours of 15 May 2000, a PM murdered five residents of the adjacent favelas of Tubarão and Ceuzinho. The angry populace, not accepting the police story that the men were drug traffickers, descended the hill into the streets of the wealthy neighborhood below, where they rioted. Televisions broadcast images of the tumult across the country, and within a month the government began to implement an innovative public security program based on contacts among police, NGOs, and local leaders that significantly decreased levels of violence in the two favelas. Although these reforms achieved some success, within three...

  9. FOUR Santa Ana
    (pp. 97-129)

    At 2:00 P.M. on Friday, 4 August 1997, I climbed the gentle slope of Santa Ana Hill to visit a crèche run by the Catholic Church, which serves approximately forty children between the ages of two and four. To get there, one has to walk up a roughly paved path lined with small bars and stores from a city-maintained road that runs into the heart of the favela. All along the walk, smells of sewage and garbage running down the rocky slope in iridescent streams assault the climber. Just before arriving at the crèche, the path comes out into an...

  10. FIVE Vigário Geral
    (pp. 130-168)

    On the night of 16 July 2003, a group of drug traffickers from the favela of Parada de Lucas invaded Vigário Geral, killed traffickers, and threatened the lives of other residents. Nearly ten years earlier, in the predawn hours of 30 August 1993, a group of police from the 9th Batalhão de Polícia Militar (Military Plice Batallion, BPM) invaded Vigário and killed twenty-one residents in alleged retaliation for traffickers killing a group of police the night before.¹ In response, residents organized themselves and began to work with outside groups to control police and trafficker violence. These efforts had many repercussions...

  11. SIX Comparative Analysis of Criminal Networks in Brazil and Latin America
    (pp. 169-188)

    The foregoing chapters have outlined a model of criminal networks and provided evidence of their structure and operation in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Criminals operate through functionally organized networks that bring them together with actors in state and civil society. These interactions give traffickers access to existing political networks and social capital that enable them to buy protection, build the support necessary to maintain ongoing criminal activities, and co-opt some of their potential opposition, thereby undermining state and social efforts to control violence.

    Through an examination of data from four Brazilian cities and from other Latin American countries, this chapter...

  12. SEVEN Theorizing the Politics of Social Violence
    (pp. 189-206)

    In the introduction to this book, I asked two questions: why is there so much violence in Rio and what can be done to improve this situation? I have answered these questions by showing that crime and violence have a heavy and ongoing impact on Rio’s favelas as a result of the ways that criminals, state officials, and civic actors maintain connections with one another to achieve group goals. In other words, the organization of criminal networks in Rio’s favelas leads to ongoing conflict in the city because of the cross-institutional ties that criminals maintain. The structure of these networks...

  13. EPILOGUE: Rio 2005
    (pp. 207-216)

    In July 2005, I sat in the air-conditioned offices of a foreign NGO in downtown Rio talking with Elísio, a resident of Vigário Geral, who had been active in the commission that had pushed for reforms in the Casa da Paz and who has since remained active in local organizations. I had read in newspapers and learned through conversations with friends concerned with the community that terrible things had happened in Vigário since I had left the country that had made that favela more violent and, indeed, more like Santa Ana and Tubarão. My hour-long conversation with Elísio made this...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 217-240)
    (pp. 241-268)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 269-279)