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Rio de Janeiro Has Diffuse and More 'Visible' Violence

02/26/2018 - 10h37




Vitor Campos, 23, Alisson Caíque, 21, and Tiago Souza, 19, were shot death on Tuesday, February 20, after a police operation in the slum where they lived. A day later, Uibirá Barbosa, 33, was shot in the chest during a holdup.

Barbosa is a police officer and was recognized by the criminals before he could act.

Neither case occurred in Rio de Janeiro, where the Brazilian federal government has decreed an intervention in public security, but in the city of Salvador, the capital of Bahia.

Cases like these are common in most Brazilian capitals and lead to questions: what justifies the federal intervention in Rio? Is violence in Rio worse than that in the other capitals? Is the situation as bad as it seems?

Questioned whether the scenario in Rio is very bad, the head of the federal intervention, Army General Walter Braga Netto, said no and added: "It gets too much attention from the press."

Data of the Brazilian Forum on Public Security's yearly report show that Gen. Netto is right - in part.

Rio de Janeiro is the capital with the highest number of violent crimes in Brazil - the city had 1,446 murders in 2016. Proportionally, however, Rio has a rate of 22.6 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants.

It ranks 21st on the chart of violent crimes in the country. Aracaju, the capital of Sergipe, has three times more violent crimes, followed by Rio Branco and Macapá.

However, the cold data on the number of murders and their proportion in relation to the number of residents hides a series of intricacies that make the feeling of insecurity rise to major proportions in Rio de Janeiro.

If the deaths in the poor outskirts do not make the spotlight, a simple victimless gunfight in the central region has the explosive potential to trigger the feeling of insecurity. And it is precisely in this point that Rio is different from the other capitals.

Specialists say that the hilly relief that sets Rio de Janeiro's tourist neighborhoods next to violent neighborhoods, coupled with the closed highways used by most residents to commute, have increased the feeling of insecurity.

In cities such as São Paulo and Salvador there haven't been any recent reports of streets or roads blocked due to gunfights or police operations.

The "media factor" also influences the feeling of insecurity. Rio de Janeiro, the country's biggest tourist destination and its former capital, is a window of Brazil and has the spotlights on it.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

Read the article in the original language

Leo Correa/Associated Press
Police officers aim their weapons during an operation against alleged drug traffickers in the Rocinha slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Police officers aim their weapons during an operation against alleged drug traffickers in the Rocinha slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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