Elite Force

The country naturalizes a discourse of brutality that the media should not reproduce

Guarujá was once the "pearl of the Atlantic", a place for fancy people and hipsters. The north coast was completely underdeveloped in the late 1960s, early 70s. It was cool to go to "the" Guarujá, preceded by the article, vetoed over time for some reason. Spectacular houses built by the sea or on cliffs were displayed in German magazines, 'dangerous sea' warning signs were already written in English.

A decade later, an avalanche of people, vacationers and not so much, saturated the resort with buildings and shacks. Guarujá was the initial and most urban experience of open-air inequality on the coast of São Paulo. The diagnosis of the region emerged at the time of the landslides in São Sebastião.

Nobody bought that the exceptional amount of rain or the climate crisis could be the only drivers of the tragedy. Fortunately. The world keeps going, and no one remembers social problems now. There are plenty of fingers pointing at the culprits: gangs, drug trafficking, the PCC. Let Rota ( The Riot Squad of the Military Police of São Paulo) take care of them then, as Paulo Maluf (Brazilian politician) would say, shamelessly while turning police violence into an electoral asset.

Folha elevated the latest São Paulo killing (it is still being debated whether it was a massacre) to the headline of the website and the printed issue in last weekend's news cycle, as soon as the number of bodies gained scale. Competitors either didn't go that far or took a few days to reach the pitch. Private Patrick Bastos Reis died on Thursday night (27), and critics have called attention to the fact that the newspaper only wised up to the matter after the retaliation by the state. The attack that killed the security agent certainly deserved more attention, even if only to instigate explanations about what had happened. For a member of Rota to be shot at is something out of line, to attribute this only to the audacity of the criminal is to oversimplify the official discourse. And, as much as police and politicians complain, the media falls for it with great frequency.

This newspaper, for example, likes to explain what the acronym Rota means and that its members make up an "elite force" of the Military Police. Rede Globo's evening news show, Jornal Nacional, talks about "tactical force". In journalistic terms, the designation mitigates the fact that it is also the most lethal troop in the corporation. It seems like a mere detail, but it is this type of thing that explains the Secretary of Public Security, naturally, to say that the government reacted "with this violence in the same proportion as they attack the police". As if the state were empowered with the law of talion.

Or the governor of São Paulo (who is from Rio) calls for a "collateral effect" and the governor of Rio de Janeiro (who is from Santos) mentions a "successful operation". Deaths, however, should shock. Any of them. It is unreasonable to ignore the lack of humanity in the image of an armoured car oozing blood, recorded by photographer Eduardo Anizelli on the First Page of Folha.

If the governors do not want to get in the way with the arms supporters in congress or with their Bolsonarist voters, they should at least be urged to discuss at a better level: what is the medium and long-term planning in the affected regions, how will integration be done with the sphere federal security guard, how to undo the pernicious climate of fear in the communities.

"It is necessary to demand more information from a technical point of view", says Carolina Ricardo, executive director of the Sou da Paz ( I am for peace) Institute. "The State of São Paulo has reduced the levels of violence, including by the police, in the last four years. It had a policy, an improvement plan. The question to be explored is whether that has changed now."

The discussion in newspapers should also be more insightful. In an attempt to detail the Military Police's theater of operations, in the Baixada Santista, the newspaper wrote in the title that "Guarujá's proximity to the port of Santos attracted the PCC ( criminal faction acting in SãoPaulo)". The researchers interviewed said more than that: international traffic through the port is a "crime of skill, of high business", in which common criminality gets in the way. None of this matches what is happening in Guarujá or what is alleged in operations. The contradiction is that it should be in the statement of the report and in the questioning of the authorities.

There are other developments to be explored. A 9 mm pistol was used against Officer Reis. It failed to contextualize that this was the best-selling caliber in the Bolsonaro era, part of the "time bomb" arsenal, in the definition provided by Carolina Ricardo, which rests in the hands of CACs (collector, sport shooter and hunters) and the like or got slipped into crime. Will the forensics say where the gun could have come from? By the way, was the ex-husband who also killed his ex-wife with a 9 mm in broad daylight in Vila Leopoldina last week a CAC?

A quick look at the newspaper's comments section shows how relatively easy it is for the São Paulo government to justify itself about such a wave of violence. It is up to the press, as the expert emphasizes, to be technical. Highlighting the barbarism behind the speech sounds obvious, but it is not enough.

Jose Henrique Mariante

An engineer and journalist, he was a reporter, correspondent, editor and secretary at Folha, where he has worked since 1991. He is the ombudsman

Translated by Cassy Dias