São Paulo, Brazil, recently marked an event which will give readers abroad an
idea of what life is like here – for the first time in 50 years a whole day
passed without a single murder reported. Not surprisingly, this news did not
lead to mass celebrations and there was one dissenting report that a body had
been found in a rubbish skip.
However, the event was consistent with a trend which has seen the murder rate in the city fall by almost 80% since 1999. Veja magazine recently published an article explaining the reasons for this statistical reduction.
One of the points it highlighted was an electronic system based on the New York model which allows police to map every district of the city and identify specific locations for various kinds of crime. By doing so, they have been able to anticipate possible criminal actions and ensure a police presence in these most dangerous areas.
Unfortunately this electronic efficiency is not always matched by human efficiency by the police or the judiciary as the following example of a police chief who is currently driving around in a BMW worth almost 300,000 Brazilian reais (US$ 166,000), which was confiscated from a drug dealer shows.
The 2006 model BMW was apprehended by the federal police in São Paulo at the beginning of the year as part of an anti-drugs operation. The car was registered in a false name and belonged to one of Brazil’s main drug traffickers, Luciano Geraldo Daniel.
Goods amounting to 15 million reais (US$ 8.3 million), including the BMW and 12 other flashy cars belonging to Daniel and his associates, were confiscated by the legal authorities. The cars were handed over to the federal police’s anti-drug squad.
According to the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, the director of intelligence at that time, Renato da Porciúncula, not only took the BMW for his personal use but took the vehicle with him when he transferred to a new job with the national intelligence agency (ABIN) in Brasília in October. A team from the Correio Braziliense newspaper photographed him driving the car from his home to his office.
Asked why he was still driving a car which did not belong to him, Porciúncula issued a statement saying a judge had handed it over to him in his capacity as the legal depositary for it and had extended this order when he left his old job for ABIN.
In his ruling the judge said that the agency was pursuing intelligence related to “the activities of drug trafficking which is harmful to society and the democratic state”. He also said ABIN was “defending the democratic rule of law and safeguarding the security of society and the state.”
Porciúncula claimed that the judge’s ruling was a temporary one but added that he would continue to act as the legal depository until the ruling was reversed.
In other words, a senior policeman will continue to zoom around the streets in a big, fancy car which was bought with the proceeds of drug trafficking, a car to which he has no moral right whatsoever.
Meanwhile, Brazilians will be relieved to know that the judge who made these ruling is concerned with protecting society and the democratic state.
One wonders if the judge, who is so concerned with the rule of law, will take further action over the last sentence of the Estado story which says: “The owner of the BMW has accumulated fines amounting to 16,300 reais (US$ 9,034) for traffic offences and delays in paying the vehicle licensing tax (IPVA).”
John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish writer and consultant with long experience of Brazil. He is based in São Paulo and runs his own company Celtic Comunicações. You can read more by him at his site www.brazilpoliticalcomment.com.br. Fitzpatrick can be contacted at email@example.com.
© John Fitzpatrick 2007