The Other Champions of Brazil’s Carnaval: Violence and Death

Arrastão, the trio elétrico that ends Salvador's Carnaval Carnaval in Brazil is a time of excesses: excess of fun, music, drinks, drugs and sex. And once again it was also a season of increased violent deaths. The final numbers haven't been compiled yet. But according to numbers available yesterday night, February 21, there have been at least 99 deaths on the roads.

As for murders São Paulo state had 57, while the much less populated Pernambuco had 70 of them. Ironically, Pernambuco, which has 8.5 million inhabitants, was celebrating the fact that the number of homicides had fallen 11% from a year ago, when 79 people were murdered in the state. In Pernambuco's capital, Recife, with 1.5 million people, 22 were killed.

According to Pernambuco's SDS (Social Defense Secretariat), 51 people were arrested in flagrante delicto and 4,805 bottles of loló were apprehended. Loló is a homemade concoction using ether and perfume that people use to get high since lança-perfume, the industrial version of loló, was made illegal in the 60s.

With 37 million people, São Paulo had a more modest participation in the murder statistics contributing with 57 assassinations. Once again, the number of homicides shrunk when compared to 2006. Last year 81 people were killed in the state during Carnaval.

Then there are all those lucky people who were close to death but their time hadn't come. There were 72 murder attempts throughout São Paulo state this year, well below the 103 of 2006.

According to São Paulo Public Security Secretariat other crimes that dropped were thefts (from 1,402 to 1052) and robberies (from 761 to 667). On the other hand, car theft went up 8% and cases of alcohol intoxication grew 82% from 235 cases to 429.

Minas Gerais state had the larger number of people killed on the roads: 33. There were 22 deaths in Santa Catarina's highways. In a collision between a Volkswagen Gol and a truck at BR-101 seven people died.

Road accidents also killed 14 people in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul. In Paraná, also in the South, 306 car accidents brought death to 23 people and injuries to other 253.

In terms of generalized violence, northeastern state of Bahia, gets the top prize. While the Public Security Secretariat tallied only 6 murders, there were 1,622 police cases.

80 of them involved the attack against buses known as arrastão, a criminal practice in which buses are stopped and everybody inside, is forced under the gun to hand over their money, jewelry and other possessions. Bahia's police authorities concede that this Carnaval was 30% more violent than the past one.

The strategy adopted this year by Bahia's Military Police of concentrating their men where the Carnaval parades were taking place left Salvador's neighborhoods without protection. Thieves and robbers took advantage assaulting, with relish and the certainty of going unpunished, residences, buses and pedestrians.

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