UN Says Brazil Doesn’t Offer Enough Security for World Cup and Olympics

Rio's Big Skull armored vehicle Brazil must intensify a crackdown on violence as part of its preparations for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 if it wants to ensure that there will be sufficient security for those events in the city of Rio de Janeiro, concluded Philip Alston in a special report for the United Nations on Extra Judicial Executions.

“We welcome the news that community policing will be increased in certain slums of the city and that the federal government has promised to raise salaries in the police force. But more will have to be done to achieve the level of security we feel is necessary for the World Cup and the Olympic Games,” declared Alston, as he reported on continued alarming levels of deaths caused by police action and noncompliance with recommendations he made in a 2007 report.

Alston, a UN special rapporteur, recalled his 2007 visit when he witnessed Rio violence firsthand. “The day-to-day life of many Brazilians, especially those who live in slums, takes place in the shadow of assassinations and criminal violence. When I visited Brazil I saw how the police execute supposed criminals, and kill innocent bystanders during their operations. Civilians were also killed by extermination groups and ‘milícias,’ whose membership includes policemen.”

According to Alston, the number of executions in Brazil is very high. “There was a total of 11,000 deaths by the police registered as “resistance followed by death,” in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro between 2003 and 2009. The evidence shows clearly that in reality these deaths were executions. Only the police see ‘resistance.’ These deaths should be investigated as assassinations.”

As for the policy in Rio de Janeiro of sending heavily armed police forces (known as UPPs) into slum areas to clear out criminal elements and drug lords so the government can move in and bring basic services to the population, Alston praised the effort, but said a lot of work was necessary to make the new security real and sustainable. He also mentioned reports that UPPs sometimes abused local inhabitants and that promised services did not always appear.

The UN report says that the number of people killed as the result of police violence and extermination groups in Brazil is “alarming.” The report goes on to say that Brazil has not complied completely with any of the 33 recommendations made in a special report filed in 2007 by Philip Alston on “Summary, Arbitrary and Extra Judicial Executions in Brazil.” Out of the 33 recommendations he made in 2007, only 11 were partially implemented and the other 22 basically ignored.

“The fact is that almost nothing has been done to resolve this grave problem of killings by police on duty, this very high rate of what is called “justified assassination due to resistance,” (“autos de resistência”) says the new report, adding that most of deaths are not even investigated in any significant way. “Little has been done to reduce the violence,” is the conclusion the latest UN report reaches.

The document does cite some progress in Rio de Janeiro where “milícia” activities have been investigated and the police have begun occupying slums (these police, known as Pacification Units – “UPP,” have to dislodge drug lords so they can follow up with the installation of basic governmental services – that the drug lords were providing, so pervasive was their presence).

The report also cites the large number of deaths that occur inside Brazilian prisons, along with deaths due to the action of “milícias” and extermination groups whose members are often off-duty police.

The report mentions that  some progress has been made in dealing with Death Squads (“Esquadrões da Morte”) in Pernambuco.

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