What are militias?

Christiana Carvalho's photo


The risk that militias pose to democracy and the urgency to face the threat to life in the face of the genocidal actions of security policies and criminal justice, a voracious prisoner

We have before us more than one theme, a challenge that anguishes us, mobilizes us. It is essential that we understand what the militias mean, so that it is possible to somehow define public policies, initiatives and therapies for this pathology that is so dramatic and with degrading effects for society, for democracy.

It is known that these categories vary historically and have other roots, other meanings. Following the trail of history, I go back to the 60s or perhaps to the mid-50s and, evidently, starting from some indispensable assumptions, taking into account which country we are talking about.

Our country is deeply unequal and marked by structural racism. A country whose history has been very harsh and violent. Therefore, the episodes, these events, the circumstances and dynamics are profoundly violent and, in that sense, compatible with the characteristics of our society. Therefore, they would hardly be possible in other contexts.

In the mid-50s, the chief of police in Rio de Janeiro – this episode is narrated by Professor Michel Misse – formed a group of police officers whose job it was to execute suspected criminals, suspects to be more precise, and to do so clandestinely. Emphasize the importance of this adverb, clandestinely, which evidently has implications. In the 60s, based on a series of circumstances, which are also quite well known, because they are always alluded to by reports, including reports relating to public safety or insecurity in Rio de Janeiro in the early 60s, the “escuderias ”, particularly the “Scuderie Detetive Le Cocq”. It was an association, a group of police officers initially gathered around a mission: to avenge a colleague, Detective Mariel Mariscot, who had been killed by a criminal.

A "Scuderie Detective Le Cocq” understood itself and defined itself as a group of vigilantes. However, once this morbid, sinister mission was accomplished, the group would not disband, it would move forward, always assigning itself new missions, and all of them oriented by that type of value that belonged to them, that of executing alleged criminals. Throughout the 60s, with diverse developments that are irrelevant, this original group ended up tentacularly unfolding, creating a set of collectives or police groups that then acquired another name (death squads), and that were still oriented and operated mainly in the Baixada Fluminense.

Professor José Claudio de Sousa studied this phenomenon with unique depth, especially in Baixada, where the same type of task was carried out, the execution of alleged criminals. This type of practice later reached other victims. If, initially, the idea was that the suspects would be executed, these groups subsequently became hired gunmen, meeting demands and following the best practices in everyday retail and local politics. Often for commercial and economic reasons; in others, for purely personal or political reasons, they executed as professionals of crime, professionals of what was said, at the time, to be gunmen. They acted not only in Rio de Janeiro, as this was a phenomenon known throughout Brazil. Espírito Santo was very marked by this history as well, as well as Minas Gerais, North and Northeast. There are also episodes in São Paulo and in the South.

Therefore, we are facing not only those groups that were generated from the criminal incubator that had been that Scuderie, already inspired by the initiatives of the 50s, but we also had the adoption of the same practice and the same methodology by different groups of police officers throughout Brazil. The groups here have even become protagonists of headlines in the media.

Out-of-duty police officers, the military regime and bookies

Several police officers were, from a certain point on, enticed by the repression of the dictatorship inaugurated in 1964 and, once recruited and trained, served to torture and murder political opponents of the military regime. They, however, never effectively ceased to be organically linked to their original police institutions. With the decline of the dictatorship and the beginning of the transition process, they dedicated themselves fully to the institutions of which they never ceased to be a part.

Many of them scrutinized the market, found favorable niches and were “adopted” by the bicheiros, who were the “capos”, the leaders of organized crime in the Baixada Fluminense and in the capital of Rio de Janeiro, also operating beyond these borders. They served the bookies not only as security guards. Sometimes, they disputed with the bosses and ended up occupying a place among the animal barons. The best-known case is that of Captain Guimarães (Aílton Guimarães Jorge).

They are hybrid figures, the result of this heterogeneous, irregular, discontinuous history, in which one passed successively from the police institution to acting in political repression, from there to directly organized crime and finally to a criminal economic enterprise. Some returned and were absorbed more than once into their guilds. This story is very important because it is revealing in some ways. Let's put it on hold for now to focus on the political transition.

The ills of political transition: change so that everything stays as before

The reference is a process that ends, which culminates, in 1988, with the promulgation of our first effectively democratic Constitution. Evidently, this does not mean that it has been fully applied or that it has corresponded to the substantive realization of democracy as formally configured in its normative terms. However, from a formal point of view, it was indeed an important and unique document in our history. It corresponded to an extremely significant achievement. However, we know that transitions in Brazil, even those that involve some level of disruption, took place through negotiations between the elites, who always ended up recomposing themselves. Brazil is marked by conservative modernization, by the Prussian way, getting involved with capitalism, by passive revolutions, finally by intrinsically authoritarian capitalism, which excludes the participation of the masses, of subordinate classes and which ends up reproducing itself, despite its mutations, for its dynamism, always based on rearrangements and new coalitions that are being formed between representatives, leaders and the political, economic and social elites.

This was no different in 1988, and our transition was negotiated. We leap from the moment of truth – to use that distinction suggested by Nelson Mandela and the case of South Africa, between the moment of truth and the moment of reconciliation – and move directly to reconciliation, sweeping away the ashes of the past, the wounds, the corpses, the brutalities, all the barbarism, under the rug and we immediately moved to the new regime that was inaugurated with the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution.

The negotiation of this passage evidently involved the representatives of the previous regime, the military dictatorship, who still had some influence, and the other established political forces, and the environment provided the representatives of the former regime with reasonable decision-making power. They have interposed in some cases, and have put their foot down around some demands; one of them, among others, very relevant to us, here for our reflection. They imposed a reservation in the area of ​​public safety. The institutional field of public security, perhaps to some extent, criminal justice, more particularly public security. And the organizational structures forged by the dictatorship were, therefore, bequeathed to us.

In democracy we inherit the institutions without any reorganization, without any restructuring. It is clear that in new times, new airs, new legal references, many procedures have changed. But realize that when an organizational structure is preserved, it is conserved, it brings with it human beings, individuals, men and women of flesh and blood, with their values, their beliefs and their affective dispositions. Action protocols, practical protocols, which were present in socialization, are absorbed, incorporated, and maintained in such a way that we can say that this reserve of the public security area, which, therefore, was not reached, was not touched, was not crossed by the transforming tsunami of democracy, this reservation ended up provoking the inauguration, the establishment, of a double temporality, if you'll allow the image.

On the one hand, we had the fluent, living time of democracy: advances, mobilizations, expansion of the experience of citizenship, a very significant reduction in poverty over the subsequent decades, greater participation; finally, a very significant set of advances in conquests, with limits, with contradictions, of course. On the other hand, the consecration of this other temporality, a crystallized, frozen temporality, which refers to immemorial times, to our deepest history, which is the history of slavery, brutality, structural racism, inequalities.

This history that marked the entire course of police institutions over time was present in the reorganization forged there of police institutions. And this concentrated history, tempered by the dictatorship, was bequeathed to us. Therefore, it is this frozen past, refractory to changes, to the dynamism of democracy, it is this past that coexists, with all its weight, its thickness and its resistance, with the democratic vibration of Brazilian society, without idealizations, keeping here all the limitations already mentioned.

See what a paradoxical design, a dichotomy, a duality, a contradiction. Police corporations cannot be the object of any generic, superficial description, which summarizes a whole complexity in two or three words and qualifiers, but it is not wrong to say that after observing these last three decades, in the democratic period, it is quite clear that the the most numerous segments of the nearly 800 men and women who make up our police institutions, the majority are in fact still linked to a corporate culture, whose values ​​were those refined, matured, which fermented in the times of our most remote past and which were, shall we say, , updated during the dictatorship.

They are still those who justify extrajudicial executions, who confuse justice with revenge and who are absolutely refractory to civil power, republican legitimacy and political authority. Imagine then, men and women in arms, which is a crucial function for any democratic state of law. The democratic state of law cannot do without force. The State is the monopoly holder of the use of coercive means, of the legitimate use of coercion, and the police apparatuses are therefore fundamental apparatuses, and it is up to them to limit the measured, moderate exercise of force, evidently following legal, constitutional parameters, observing international treaties of human rights etc.

This is a precious, fundamental function in which the game of life and death is played. Therefore, we are talking about extremely important institutions, as they were relegated to the background, and our entire recent democratic republican history takes place at their expense, as if they remained in the shadow, on the sidelines of the reformist transforming vitality. And Brazil as a nation managed, then, to live with the genocide of black youths and poor youths in the most vulnerable territories, with lethal police brutality unparalleled among countries that provide minimal data in this regard, with a level of violence always addressed , of course, predominantly to blacks, the poorest and residents of these most vulnerable areas, systematically, regardless of governments, including their ideological political orientations.

This crystallized, frozen temporality, refractory to democratic principles, this institutional enclave that the police represent, showed countless times that it was refractory to democracy, repelling civil republican political authority. How was that done? Preventing the governors from actually commanding these police forces. It is a fact that must be recognized: the governors do not command, except exceptionally, but in fact they do not command their police.

The Public Ministries, which are constitutionally responsible for the external control of police activities, despite their admirable efforts, unfortunately are still tiny, insufficient, minority. And Justice blesses the complicity, which in practice we verify in another part of the Public Ministry, with the reproduction of that frozen time that is the revived past that accompanies us like a shadow, like a kind of ghost of another country to us. haunt, another country that is the reverse, the opposite, which is the opposite of what our Constitution defines as our legal constitutional regime.

This is due to the nature of our transition and the extraordinary difficulties that the civil power has had over all these years in dealing with this issue, in elaborating it, in understanding it, in understanding its extraordinary gravity.

We now have a phenomenon before us that requires reflection and action. Negligent silence, complicit omission, is no longer possible; it is no longer possible to pretend to ignore what the police represent as repressive instruments, with bases and biases that are inadmissible, whose ostensive display, whose explicitness in some countries, even characterized by crucial violence, such as the United States, provoke revolts, insurrections that flood the nation. Here we have episodes that are exceptional, daily routinized, naturalized. This would not happen if numerous segments of society were not conniving, or in some way also sharing these values, and this is extremely interesting, it is fascinating from a sociological, anthropological and historical point of view, but it is dramatic for us as Brazilians. .

Brazil lives with this duplicity, the enclave of this force that resists democracy and lives with it, with the consent of republican institutions accepting the unacceptable and applause from society due to the fact that the culture of these corporations, which is a culture that has fascist traits, it is a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, brutal culture that justifies lynching, etc. Human beings are not just this or that, they are often this and that and societies even more so. There can be – in the Brazilian case it is evident – ​​empathy, compassion, affective and supportive disposition and at the same time the most atrocious brutality, the reiterated cruelty, and we live with that, being simultaneously our past and the anticipation of an idealized future that never comes true.

What are militias?

There would not be what we call militias, which are groups made up of police and former civil and military police and some firefighters and associates who are recruited and accepted, in addition to, increasingly, by drug traffickers who are co-opted into the new coalitions , which today has spread, has been replicated. Why was it possible to reach this point, where we have 57% of the population of the capital of our state under the control of either militias or drug factions, most of which are militiamen? Today we have many more militiamen dominating the population than drug dealers. There are almost 4 million people under the control of armed criminal groups, militiamen or drug dealers, especially militiamen, which is the power that grows the most and which has allied itself with the pure Third Command, opposing only the Red Command, which is a kind of island of resistance of the old model. How is it possible that this happened? And look: this means the negation of the democratic rule of law, because it is the negation of the State itself, which, by ceasing to be a monopolist of the legitimate means of force, ceases to present itself as the State.

This was possible because of our history, the nature of our transition, whose most immediate expression is a security policy, so to speak, which, with exceptions, with rare honorable exceptions throughout our recent history, have been translated into these so-called policies security and authorizations for extrajudicial executions in cryptowar or protowar confrontations in favelas and periphery areas, in vulnerable territories, with dantesque implications and without the production of any success, of any reasonable result in the interest of society, or that was minimally in according to constitutional legality.

Why did our history strongly contribute to the formation of militias? Because it is a story of autonomization, of police niches that start to act with this duplicity of reference register, that's why I spoke of the death squads, the Scuderie Le Cocq, etc. They are nuclei that remain in the police, but act illegally and clandestinely. The reader remembers that right at the beginning he was told to keep this adverb; it is relevant, because this did not become an instituted, legalized standard. Even in the dictatorship, when there was the death penalty, a trial was required. But what is being talked about here is lynching, extrajudicial execution, and please do not confuse execution with self-defence, which is of course authorized by the Constitution and by all democratic constitutions and by human rights treaties of course.

Thus we have a history of tacit authorization for the autonomization of niches, of groups that act outside the law, remaining organically linked to police institutions. This model, to the extent that we uncritically inherited this tradition in the inaugural moment of democracy that was the transition, in which we received this legacy from these organizational structures with these practices, they brought with them their vices that were intrinsic to their internal dynamics of functioning, and this is all hypertrophied and underlined by the policies that authorize and recommend extrajudicial executions.

Why? Because when the policeman at the end is granted the freedom to kill, he is also tacitly granted the right not to do so; therefore, of negotiating survival and life, which is an extraordinary currency that is always inflating. It is an inexhaustible source of resources. What do you pay to survive? Everything you have and more. Assigning them the right to kill at no cost, without any conditioning, it becomes in fact the passport for the negotiation of survival, and this has been structured, organized over the years because economies end up composing themselves, articulating themselves according to dynamics. rational.

There is a tendency towards rationalization, imperatives of calculation, etc., which led to the transition from those initial moments of confrontations and debates in retail, from the commerce of life in retail, to a more stable, structured situation, which is that of “arrego ”, to use the Carioca expression, that is, of the contract, of the agreement, of the pact, in short, of the society between police and traffic. And this society made the histories – the institutional history and the history of drug trafficking – indissociable, whose relevance in Rio cannot be underestimated. As much as we stress the importance of this fact, we will still be stressing it insufficiently, because this was decisive over so many years, especially when associated with arms trafficking, and all this did not happen without police participation and protagonism.

The “Budget Cat”

During the transition, policies authorizing executions, allowing top police officers to carry them out, what was new? The autonomization, the constitution in these niches. And to that, and now we are approaching the conclusion, there is a third vector in this quick genealogy, which is informal and illegal private security. It is necessary to understand this. The public budget in the area of ​​security is gigantic, not only in Rio de Janeiro. However, it is insufficient to pay dignified, fair wages to the great police mass, because there are tens of thousands, especially if we incorporate the inactive ones. That way, any change has a big impact. This unreal budget becomes real, that is, it is made possible by an illegal arrangement that I call the “budget cat”, and only cariocas will understand. There is the “gato net”, which are connections between the legal and the illegal, which happen in an improvised way. Here we have the “budget cat”, which is this connection between legal and illegal. How does this happen? What illegality is this?

All state governments, not just in Rio de Janeiro, know that their police officers take second jobs, part-time jobs, in order to supplement their income, because salaries are insufficient. And in what area do they do it? As we all do: in the area of ​​our expertise, our competence. Well, governments are perfectly aware that thousands of police officers go into informal and illegal private security. Why? Because it is illegal for public servant police to act in private security, as this is an obvious conflict of interest. The better the public security, the worse the private security.

Clearly there is a divergence, and what makes it illegal is this connection to informal and illegal private security. Despite this, governments look to the side and say that this is a responsibility of the Federal Police and, effectively, from a legal point of view, it is true. But the Federal Police have no contingent, no resources, no time, and no interest in getting their hands on that hornet's nest, knowing that it will find not only the small fry there, to use the popular expression, but also officers, delegates and authorities of the institutions cops.

Thus, private security is not just for those who seek to survive with a little more dignity, who try to supplement their income, honest, perfectly understandable and, let's say, even benign, due to their motivations, although illegal. We still have those who are entrepreneurs and who take advantage of this opportunity, who don't need it to feed themselves, and are looking for profits on another scale. And the fact is that, when the government does not consciously look at and neglects it as a strategy to make its budget viable, letting police officers supplement their income in this way, then the evil aspect of the problem is not tackled. And what is evil? It is the actions and initiatives of those corrupted police officers that generate insecurity to sell security. And finally, there are those who organize themselves based on experience in drug trafficking, understanding that they can go far beyond gangs, and then actually form militias, based on some local experience, etc.

And which of these police officers want to go far beyond trafficking? These are older, more mature, more experienced men. They are professionals who observe the situation, analyze the situation and check whether there is any possibility of territorial domination and control over a community by armed groups. And, instead of just trading illicit substances at retail, once they assume territorial control, they start to tax in an arbitrary and evidently discretionary way all economic activities and costs of that community, including access to land.

In this way, they constitute themselves as true feudal barons. And these insulated spaces will shape a geopolitics with a configuration, a kind of a large archipelago that took over a good part of the city, in the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro and areas of the Baixada Fluminense, and even further, advancing into the state.

The first combat against the militias

We come to politics. These experienced groups of older men realized that there was no point, as traffickers did, in simply renting access to candidates. Candidates at election time want access to campaign, traffickers chose one or the other, according to payments, and allowed that access. The militiamen think with more ambition and deduce that they themselves can run for office and occupy space in the State, in the political sphere. And this has happened systematically in such a way that they now not only use the police to help them conquer spaces, to maintain their domains, by subjecting the police to their interests, remaining safe, exceptionally unscathed, but also occupying spaces of power, political spaces in Parliaments and Executives in the Baixada Fluminense. They became a great challenge, not only for public safety in Rio de Janeiro, as this is a problem that has its heart here, but that radiates throughout the country, that is, one more problem for Brazilian democracy. .

Note that this is a kind of rising parallel power. By the way, this category, “militia”, started to be applied, from 2006, thanks to the journalist Vera Araújo, from the The Globe, to the groups that dominate territories in communities here in Rio de Janeiro, groups formed mainly by police officers. Until then, we referred to these groups as “policia mineira”, or “policias mineiras”. Miners because they prospected, mined, acted to benefit illegally, etc. And Vera Araújo started to use the term milícia, which was later adopted because it fit so well with the definition of these local mafias, so to speak.

And we had, from January 2007, the privilege of having a very courageous, audacious delegate, who at that time had the support of the Secretariat of Security; Claudio Ferraz, head of DRACO (Delegation for the Repression of Organized Crime). From 2007 to 2010, Ferraz arrested nearly 500 militia members. Until then, militiamen were not arrested. There were only one or two cases before. Why? Because, according to the authorities, they didn't even exist, you didn't realize that; or some other authorities referred to community self-defense, because evidently these militias were born selling private security, selling order maintenance in communities.

Let's look at a case: that of deputy Marcelo Freixo's brother, Renato Freixo, who became a relevant character in this story. In 2006, he was elected manager of his condominium in Niterói and decided to understand what the story was, where were the contracts, whose company was offering, after all, security? What's the legality of that? He was murdered.

This is a symptom, a very sad demonstration, but very evident and illustrative of what we are following. The political authorities, to whom silence suited them, not least because they had support in those areas that were converted into true electoral corrals for their benefit, these authorities silenced or denied the existence of the militias or only referred to community self-defense.

That same year, Vera Araújo produced some important articles in the The Globe, very critical, drawing attention to the criminal dimension of these organizations. In 2007, at the beginning of the new state legislature, the newly elected state deputy Marcelo Freixo presented, on the first day, in the first week of the new legislature, a request to open a CPI on the militias. The president of Alerj, Jorge Picciani, denied and shelved the request.

Chief Claudio Ferraz began to carry out his work, and the articles were reproduced. In the first half of the following year, in 2008, there was an episode that became very well known in Rio de Janeiro and very sad, in which a journalist, a driver and a photographer from the newspaper O Dia they were taken hostage, tortured and nearly executed in the Batan favela, already under militia control. They did a report on these groups. They were saved because the news leaked out, and the militiamen freed them. But the impact on their lives was tragic. This came to the fore, occupied the media headlines at the time, and society really felt touched and sensitized. The president of Alerj was forced to remove the CPI's request from the militias, and deputy Marcelo Freixo became the CPI's rapporteur, who played a very important role.

The CPI conducted by Freixo indicted more than 250 individuals – police officers –, some even holding elected office. Claudio Ferraz's work allowed for many arrests and qualified repression. After that period, our colleague Ignácio Cano, with our colleague Thais Duarte, carried out important research, which showed that, as a result of this repression, the militias, in general, had changed their behavior and tactics. And they, instead of public torments, tortures and public murders that were used as a didactic to signal their power as a form of coercion, started to create clandestine cemeteries and act, as it is popularly said, in the “little shoe”, a term that it is even the title of the research report by colleagues Cano and Thais.

Thus, there was an alteration, a retreat, an ebb and a change of attitude. The militiamen did not become peaceful and orderly, but began to kill and brutalize in a different way, with other methods. From there, a very long period was inaugurated, in which they had the possibility of recomposition again, articulating with politics, obtaining support, promoting a new growth of these groups. Of course, when we have in the Presidency of the Republic someone like Bolsonaro, who defends the flexibility of access to weapons, who defends police violence and does it ostensibly by electing a torturer as his hero, logically these groups feel stimulated, incensed, and brutality thus receives an important fuel. Our times are sharp, they are dramatic, difficult times.

Another aspect to be mentioned is the situation of honest police officers. This is not simple, because let's put ourselves in the position of an honest police officer - and there are thousands and thousands of them. These honest policemen know perfectly well what their colleagues are doing. But who among us would dare to confront these fellow criminals, who enjoy prestige, who know our address, know our house, where our family lives, who are capable of any violence? Individual police officers feel cornered, of course. What external force would be able to independently stand up to the militias?

Military intervention: the failed laboratory

The state of Rio de Janeiro already had a laboratory. In 2018, we had federal intervention. It was a big laboratory. It was a moment for us to verify whether the Armed Forces, or the Army at least, would be that force capable of, with independence, facing this decisive challenge, of life and death for Brazilian democracy, not only for Rio de Janeiro. It was a big test to see if there was any competence to deal with the issue. But there was neither competence nor interest, and if there was independence it did not manifest itself in practice, and so we continued like that, save for one or another occasional episode.

The murder of Marielle and Anderson is the most terrible sign of the militias' insubordination and arrogance. So we ask ourselves: where will these forces come from? What will be the institutions? Why is the Public Prosecutor's Office silent about police violence and does not act with the protagonism, with the initiatives that we would like? They do not understand the militias as being a deviation still deeply associated with the very institutions whose external control is their responsibility. The Public Prosecutor's Office has not been such an actor, and Justice much less so; what they may mean is that they bless the situation as it is.

Governors and blackmail: the problem of dossiers

And the governments? Governments, and I have followed this for many years, become easy prey for corrupt groups in the police. Such groups are very adept at compiling dossiers and, in the early days of government, present incriminating materials to governors. From this blackmail, the governors feel cornered. This is a repeated practice.

Regardless, the governor or governors rely on the police. And the police are precisely the incubators of the militias, they are the source of our problem. It is an extraordinarily relevant dilemma, which must be faced by the entire country and must be faced by democracy. It must mobilize what we have left of democratic oxygenation so that, together, we can conceive alternatives. But usual political practice points in the direction of increasing involvements. The fact is that it is not possible to be too optimistic right now.

There is a complement that must be made regarding the dossiers. Intelligence today has other meanings. Intelligence is associated with the provision of information, sophistication of diagnoses, provision of data and evidence and of methodological analysis tools. Intelligence is an area that is effectively rich in the articulation and availability of the knowledge produced. So it's a very interesting area, which has nothing to do with espionage and those turbulent, arbitrary tournaments, those movie plots. It has much more to do with our research work, universities, etc., which makes available to managers and operators what is known about relevant issues in society. Area agents work differently and have a long tradition in the dictatorship; and here, again, we are talking about what continuity during the democratic transition in this area meant. This is a reserved area, not touched, not transformed by the dynamics of democratization.

Anyone who listens to a telephone conversation between two people with judicial authorization hears what they want and what they don't. He listens to what he seeks and what he doesn't, but that doesn't stop him from having some interest, if the purpose is blackmail.

So imagine a politician and a businessman talking. Not only does information appear that pertains to a specific case that is the object of the authorization, of the court order, but conversations about lovers also eventually arise, about situations that may be even more delicate for the interlocutors than the actual subject of the investigation. In democratic countries with some tradition of minimum respect for the rules of the game, everything that is leftover, that is excess and that does not directly concern the authorized theme tends to be destroyed. In our case, it became very common to create databases with the leftovers, with the scraps of conversations, the scraps of the arapongem, which could eventually be useful.

An interesting connection is perceived, small, provincial, low, primitive, primary; however, fundamental between a history of dictatorship repression training operators for dirty work and the application of dirty work in democracy as an instrument of coercion, of constraint on authorities.

Such practices have these impacts and explain in part the timidity of so many of our Executive Powers to be cornered by intimidation arising from the methods of the cellars.

Militias and Profitability

As for the militias' profitability, this is clearly an obstacle to containing their growth. It is very attractive, especially in times of crisis, when police officers see their colleagues buying new cars, houses, finally getting rich. And when there is no ethical training and a very vigorous institutional commitment, this ends up imposing itself. And how we have shattered, shattered institutions, due to this friction between their corporate cultures and republican institutions. They are shattered because they live in an enclave. What justifies non-compliance with the Constitution in extrajudicial executions also justifies corruption.

These groups feed each other back, because, after all, they are vigilantes or so they initially think; afterwards, not even they themselves manage to maintain the speech of that type. But you can see how the maladjustment, this disarrangement, this torsion that generates the enclave refractory to democracy, in fact generates a shadow area that provides the gestation not only of violent practices, but also of corrupt practices, corroding republican values. Very numerous groups, which are effectively fascist in inspiration, do not believe in and do not value politics, what they call system, constitution and laws. Anyone who imagines that these violent police are passionate about legality and maintain what they do out of ardent love for the law, being more rigorous than rigor itself, is wrong. It has nothing to do with any kind of commitment to legality.

Profitability, therefore, is parasitic and depends on the economic dynamism of the communities, and creativity is great: there are vans, the net cat, control over bars and restaurants and small businesses. There is also gas, the monopoly on the sale of gas, charging more expensive than the competition, but imposing that consumption. Then, the control of public lands, their savage privatization, the appropriation and expropriation of housing complexes, the expulsion of original residents, if they do not succumb to the impositions, resale of apartments that are produced with public money and so on. Illegal constructions, such as we saw in Muzema, in which 24 people died in the disaster, and businesses, which are increasing, transport, etc. There are many joints.

It is clear that an important impediment to reducing the attractiveness of the militias and, consequently, reducing the speed of their reproduction and intensity would be the creation of means of protection for operators of the local economy, traders, among others. If honest police acted in these territories as they do in Copacabana, Leme, Ipanema or Leblon, for example, it would be difficult for these groups to coerce and impose the collection of fees. But how can we expect this to happen if, in fact, the political head of the state and the institutional leaders are not willing to face this confrontation for multiple reasons?

As for the involvement of militias with churches, there is nothing very specific to say here. What exists are works by researchers, generally with known references, on the relationship between drug factions and churches in some neo-Pentecostal denominations. This is very well known. We have religious traffickers who actually adhere to these pastors and these local centers, which in turn articulate with drug trafficking and militias alike. To what extent are they also used for money laundering? There is a lot of speculation in this regard, including within the honest police about these possibilities.

Rio de Janeiro compared to São Paulo: models of crime organization

Are the militias an eminently carioca phenomenon? That's a tough question. We found types of niches composed of police officers, especially those who become autonomous and who become new characters in the criminal universe throughout Brazil. But on this scale and with this methodology of territorial control, no. It is a phenomenon especially in Rio de Janeiro, more than in Rio de Janeiro, which reproduces an arrangement invented and inaugurated by the trafficking of illicit substances, which is based on territorial control and dominion over communities.

The differences between drug trafficking in Rio and the PCC have been very well studied. There are precious ethnographies about the PCC and about trafficking. The subject is known quite well through these portraits resulting from so much good research and there is a possible analogy to what I propose in an article published in the book edited by Gabriel Feltran, who is one of these important scholars of the PCC. In the article in question, some association is suggested between the economy, São Paulo society and the PCC and the economy, Rio de Janeiro politics and trafficking, as we know it. And it's quite interesting to think about it.

To use gross and caricatural simplifications in a light and superficial design, we have in São Paulo a society that was strongly industrial, with an intense popular movement and dynamized by unionism, an organic society, structured around the social division of labor at the cutting edge of Brazilian capitalism. In Rio de Janeiro, the decline of the industry, the decline of the industrial sector, the predominance of services, economic degradation, the displacement of the country's capital with a series of implications and a society marked by informality; by what the old Marx called lumpesinate, which was basically a name to designate inorganicity. We live in a country of inorganicity, and organizing is an almost inglorious task. So who organizes in Rio de Janeiro? Now it is popular evangelical churches that organize at the grassroots – before it was progressive Catholic churches. If we don't think about churches, what else organizes?

We don't exactly have organizations in an inorganic society, but aggregations around charismatic leaders, as was, for example, the Brizola phenomenon. There is, at this moment, the possibility of endorsing a messianic or charismatic leadership, even a fascist or pro-fascist like Bolsonaro. are aggregations, and following the best practices, circumstantial, around certain discourses of mobilized values ​​and certain negotiations more or less with this purpose. The rest in politics is also retail, informality and inorganicity also in a partisan world. See what the PT in São Paulo and Rio were in terms of impact on society, including Brazilian society. here the negotiations and following the best practices, local negotiations that we call physiological to solve immediate problems.

Following the reasoning, trafficking as it is organized in Rio is absolutely uneconomical and irrational, having no way of surviving. It can only survive as long as Rio's decay persists. Why? When the experiences of the UPPs began, I gave an interview to the The Globe saying he didn't believe in it, because it wasn't public policy; it was a program basically aimed at more political, cosmetic purposes, because there was no police reform, and with these police forces that would be unsustainable.

Anyway, if it worked and where it worked, it would mean a great leap in the quality of rationality for trafficking. Trafficking would modernize, it would be reborn because it would have to abandon this model of territorial domination. This is because a small, heavily armed army is needed, at the risk of their lives, making the flow of what they want to achieve unfeasible, having to buy membership, police complicity always at higher prices, in an unstable situation, under permanent risk, to negotiate illicit substances which all over the world are traded in a wandering, nomadic way, with transit in some areas of the city.

As for the militia, territorial domination is profitable because it is a matter of imposing charges on all economic activities, but for trafficking it makes no sense. Trafficking in São Paulo adopts a decentralized, hyper-flexible business model, with delegation of autonomy at the end. It's a business model that works, thrives with less friction with the police, less trouble, less cost, less risk and that corresponds to a more developed economic dynamic.

The point is that the militias accompany criminal and societal, economic and political models, in an inorganic society where it becomes possible to create a geopolitics based on feudal baronies, in quotes, in this archipelago. This is impossible in São Paulo. And Rio is the capital of the militias also because of the history of our police forces, the brutality of our police forces since the time of the country's capital, with the centralization, the hyperpoliticization that this implied. So there are historical elements that made Rio's police much more powerful, politicized, uncontrollable and less sensitive to constitutional appeals, less enchanted by democratic republican symbology.

About the existing international connections, trafficking did that. First it was Fernandinho Beira Mar, who replaced those mules, the guys who came to bring drugs here from Colombian, Peruvian and such sources, but above all Colombian. Fernandinho Beira Mar organized this, and who tells this story very well are Camila Dias and Bruno Paes Manso in a book about the dispute war in international connections, especially the PCC, but also the Comando Vermelho more and more. The militias will have to internationalize as they are entering the drug market with force.

State Priorities

Is it possible for the State to control the militias? Well, so far the state has not been able or willing to do so. And more: the public agenda did not impose on the State crew, which are the governments, the definition of combating militias as a priority. There is an anecdotal example that is very expressive of this. I was in São Paulo in 2010, the film “Tropa de Elite 2” had been a great success. Those who watched it know that the focus is on the militias. Suddenly that gained a very large projection and a negative projection for the militias. I was at a seminar in São Paulo and I got a call from Zé Padilha, director of “Tropa” saying: “Luiz, did you see what happened? So doing 'Troop 3'”. “What do you mean, Zé, what do you mean? Who's doing it?" It was the beginning of the invasion of Alemão, filmed in real time as if it were effectively dramaturgy, live and in color, with narrators on the spot and with real-time coverage and all the emotions. And what was the media and political framing given to that intervention? On one side good, on the other, evil. Who played the role of evil? They were the drug dealers from Alemão, who fled from above, in flip-flops or barefoot, shirtless, carrying a rifle. These were the personification of evil. On the other side, the Brazilian State, the Armed Forces and the police representing good.

The question of the militias, which is a demand from the police, was dropped, and the agenda underwent an immediate reflection. Now, did it all happen with that intention? No of course not. But that was one of the results. When at that moment it seemed that we were bringing the militia question to the center of the agenda, a situation arises that shifts the theme again, and we return to the old police polarity vs. trafficking, which is a mistake, a total deception, because there is no trafficking without police, and our problem is precisely the degradation of police actions, which does not mean an accusation against the police and their group, or the institutions in which there are thousands of them who pay a very high price and are honest and honorable, risking their own lives with unworthy wages so many times.

Let's bring together what's alive, what's intelligent, in the police, outside of it and in society to think step by step. The militias will no longer have peace of mind and the police will start again. How do we start over? There are many proposals, but will this be resolved in 2 years? No. But at some point this transformation has to start.

There is yet another point to be highlighted. São Paulo witnessed an astonishing decline in homicides, and the government swam in the arm and presented itself jubilant in triumph, as responsible for taming especially lethal crime, etc. And we know, because research is plentiful in this regard, that after that 2006 crisis, the PCC, which holds monopoly control, not full, is not a full absolute monopoly, but leads the criminal universe in São Paulo, although with a lot of flexibility of centralization, but leads.

The PCC, which has a much more entrepreneurial mindset than that of drug trafficking leaders in Rio de Janeiro, decided that it would no longer kill itself, unless it received authorization from the top through specific bureaucratic mediations, based on defined criteria of a solid and consistent way. Of course, there are failures and decisions that are imposed and that are forgiven or tolerated, but an internal control mechanism was constituted because it is not interesting to create this violence and draw society's attention and end up putting pressure from society and the police against business.

It doesn't help the criminal business. So there was an ebb, and that was the main reason for the drop in the number of homicides in Brazil. There was a national plan, a drop between… I don't remember if 2015 or 2016 until 2017. There were two or three years of drop, which was also due to readjustments in the criminal world. We don't know exactly, this requires more research, but this is a strong hypothesis, coupled with changing demographics and some other possible variables.

Zones of symbiosis and friction between militias and police

In the West Zone of the city of Rio, the growth of militias resulted in fewer deaths, as I observed in an article I wrote many years ago about what public security is. We talk about it a lot, but rarely is it effectively defined. I defined it as stabilization of favorable expectations regarding social cooperation, stabilization of expectations and their generalization. Stabilization favorable to cooperation, and I tried to justify it based on the arguments that come from the seventeenth century, from political philosophy, showing that there is simply no alternative understanding, because, if we define security with the absence of crime, we would have to recognize that the Totalitarianism, then, guarantees public security, and we cannot confuse public security with peace in cemeteries, with the empire of fear and coercion.

Public security can only be a plausible issue in the democratic state of law, otherwise we can exchange death and crime for the brutal operation of the State. In this sense, this drop in crimes in the West Zone does not represent an increase in public safety in Rio de Janeiro. It cannot be defined that way, because when the removed governor Wilson Witzel said that there had been a drop in the number of crimes in Rio de Janeiro, I asked him if he was computing between crimes – he was referring to robberies –, if he was computing between robberies and embezzlements operated daily by militias throughout the state.

How do the police benefit from the militia as a corporation? Undoubtedly, in this way there is a result that is of particular interest to commanders and those who benefit from awards or some institutional recognition, which comes from the reduction of cases, but what has long been the benefit in the opposite direction. The militias benefit from the police pointing out areas that should be the object of incursions, for the elimination of competitors, for the eventual liquidation of traffickers and then the subordination of the survivors. They are co-opted for outsourced trafficking tasks, for threats, for arming, etc. The police supply and supply instruments and mechanisms to the militias. And these agreements take over and degrade the institution.

What are the areas of symbiosis and friction between police and militias? This is the last question and perhaps the decisive and most difficult one. Symbiosis zones are those of cooperation. Cooperation can be for benefit or harm reduction. Benefit when there is a barter, a distribution of booty; there is a sharing of what is the result of dispossession, based on all these systematic criminal operations. This happens often, and damage reduction happens when the alternative is worse. For example, how could a police officer dedicate himself to combating his militia colleagues if he knows that they have no limits, are violent, murderous and know your address? Survival, peace, tranquility is a benefit in this case in the face of so many risks that the police face.

Attrition occurs with a counterface of damage reduction, a patent threat. And friction also occurs when there is effective confrontation in the sectors that resolve to face the problem. Cláudio Ferraz, the chief delegate of DRACO, who was champion in arrests of militiamen until recently, I think until today, he did not mention it, but he still has security, security cars, etc. Marcelo Freixo just walks like that too. There is a high price to pay. I myself had to leave the country, spending years outside Rio de Janeiro, also during the period of confrontation. The clashes are constant.

Elections 2020 and sense of siege

As for the militias' role in the 2020 elections, I would argue that there is a robust movement underway and with great success. I'm not going to mention names here, obviously, but in the Baixada Fluminense it's obvious; and here in Rio de Janeiro, anyone who knows the last names and knows the histories knows the number of candidates who represent the militias directly and indirectly, more and more, and occupying important positions that give them access to information, which are tools of power and very significant influence.

This increases their power of blackmail, which is nothing soft power, it is not soft power, it is power that can become bloody and brutal; in such a way that we can imagine a paranoid person today in Rio de Janeiro, if he works in this area and thinks about it and is a human rights activist. She, using reason with absolute lucidity, definitely feels threatened. I see it as justified that people feel under siege. In an article published in the journal Piaui September of this year, I said that I live in a city under siege, in a state under siege. And what prevents murder?

We would say that the visibility and costs that crime entails. What about Marielle? Driver Anderson ended up tragically dying in that situation, but she had all the visibility, and that wasn't enough to protect her. In the past electoral process, there were those who broke her plaque in public, on the platform where the future governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro was. This means Marielle's second murder. I wrote about it in my book Demilitarize (Boitempo), published in 2019. I called the act Marielle's second murder, because it was a desecration.

We know, the Greeks taught us this, that true death is oblivion. There is no worse condemnation than oblivion; that is, there is no worse sentence than the prohibition of burial; hence, in Sophocles' tragedy, Antigone's entire dedication to burying her brother. To bury it means to give it a destination and constitute a landmark there that will prevent amnesia, will give it eternal life in some sense in the memory of subsequent generations, of future generations. When the plate is broken, which is an allusion to memory, which is the consecration of memory; when the name is broken in half, and thus the very symbol of permanence, this constitutes a profanation; he kills himself a second time, because he is symbolically condemned to oblivion. Evidently this will not succeed, she will not be forgotten, but that was the purpose.

But this is just the echo of the homage paid to a torturer, rapist, murderer, the Brilliant Ustra, by the President of the Republic. So, if these are the discourse and posture, how can we imagine that authorities and leaders are even moved by the threat to democracy and civility, with the attack on the Constitution, if they are perpetrators, profaners. In this way, we do not have institutions on the one hand and crime on the other. This is our tragedy.

Demilitarization of the police, a way forward?

The theme of demilitarization is very dear to me, and I dedicated a book to the subject in 2019, whose title is Demilitarize (Boitempo). This is not a panacea. But observe that we have both military police and civil police in the militias. Lethal police brutality is not a military monopoly, we find civilian police involvement as well. As a matter of fact, it seems to me to be a contradiction, even from a constitutional point of view, to maintain warlike or protowar units, units of combat action, like the Acori, which is a facsimile of the BOPE in the Civil Police. So when we discuss demilitarization, we cannot kid ourselves. I understand that this is essential to solve, but it is far from solving our problem. It is a necessary step among many others.

I proposed to contribute to the elaboration of a Constitutional Amendment Proposal, which was presented by then Senator Lindbergh Faria to the Federal Senate, in 2013, PEC 51, in which we listed a set of measures that would work as a true refoundation of the Brazilian police. This is all done with full respect for the acquired rights of police workers etc. Fortunately, an important movement, although numerically small, of anti-fascist police officers has PEC 51 as one of its main flags.

Today there is at least one speech, a proposal on the table to be discussed by anyone who considers it necessary to refound our institutions in the area of ​​security. PEC 51 involves demilitarization as one of the fundamental points. If you're interested, I suggest checking out the book. Demilitarize or on my website, where there are many articles and articles of mine, video interviews, audio on demilitarization and similar topics. The site has my name: luizeduardosoares.com.

Internal Affairs

As for the correct police officers and internal affairs, unfortunately Internal Affairs does not work. And this is historic in all police forces, some more and others less. But as the influence of corporatism is very great, not even the Public Prosecutor's Office acts, let alone internal controls. One cannot generalize because there are efforts here and there, but internal control in an institution that is crossed by friction of this magnitude cannot work.

When I was in government, I created the Police Ombudsman. We had a wonderful, courageous person of great dignity, Judge Julita Lemgruber, as our ombudsman. But this activity ended up deactivated. We had, among several enemies we fought at that time, two who became protagonists of later tragedies. One of those figures that we fight is called Ronnie Lessa, who is now in prison, accused of having been the murderer of Marielle and Anderson. The other is Lieutenant Colonel Claudio Luiz Oliveira, who is in prison for the murder of Judge Patrícia Acioli in 2011. The two were part of the team that operated in a battalion, known as the “battalion of death”. We faced it, with all the denouncements in hand, mobilizing institutions, and that made us part of our lives. But we ended up defeated, and I had to flee the country. They won: one killer of Marielle and another killer of judge Patrícia Acioli.

PM's working conditions

But, about correct police officers, of which there are thousands, and for you to have an idea of ​​what they suffer and go through, because we are here talking about all these horrors, and we are not showing any empathy with police citizen workers, and for their suffering. They are victims too, thousands and thousands of them. A very courageous prosecutor, honored in Rio de Janeiro, decided to present a TAC to the state government a few years ago. TAC is a term of conduct adjustment, a legal instrument, whose use I have defended over the years in lectures throughout Brazil for members of the Public Ministry, as a tool to be applied, because criminal actions end up embarrassed by politics and condemned to postponement successive changes, while the TAC is more agile, is a term of adjustment, proposes corrections based on diagnoses, mobilizes society in independent instances to monitor corrections, negotiates and offers alternatives and possibilities for readjustments, etc.

So this prosecutor dared to prepare a TAC, listening to police complaints against their own institutions, particularly the Military Police, and put together the version of her final report saying the following: “I visited military police in UPPs A, B, C, D , and found them working in conditions analogous to slavery. They were in containers at 50 degrees in the shade, and the air-cooled equipment was evidently not working, no maintenance, no power. They didn't have bathrooms, doing their business in the bush, without water or food, having to rely on the goodwill of pubs and the community, feeling absolutely vulnerable with expired bulletproof vests, without training and, worst of all, working in conditions in regimes of time, in journeys that surpassed even those foreseen for absolutely exceptional and critical moments”.

When she prepared this first version of the report, she asked me to bring some PM officers in for an informal conversation. They were three friendly colonels, great figures who still fight today, but who are already outside the corporation. They read this first version with me and, when they came across this paragraph, they looked at each other, looked at us and asked: “Do you know why this happens? Because they are military. If they were civilians, they would never admit this level of exploitation, of dispossession, because they would have, if not unions, but organizations, associations, labor justice would intervene. Because this is absolutely inhuman, but they cannot hesitate, they cannot say alas, they cannot question, much less disobey the order, under penalty of administrative arrest, without the right to defense, under penalty of blemish on their career, irremovable and indelible". This is the picture of the treatment of base police officers. What can we expect?

Uncertainties about the future

It is not enough to prevent the election of militiamen. It takes a lot more than that, because they didn't get to where they are on their own. By the way, it is curious that I am using the masculine, but here on purpose, because there are only male militiamen. There is a question of violence with patriarchalism, sexist, phallocentric, and there is a question of militias with these despotic exercises of power with masculinity, the subject of a very important separate inquiry. But anyway, the militiamen didn't get to where they are on their own. They depended on the consent of so many complicities, so much support, so much pusillanimity, so much cowardice and so much corruption, in the broadest sense of the word, not in that lesser sense and lack of institutional democratic commitment, lack of capacity to define agendas with based on priorities and urgencies, and this all goes back to society, which did not impose this on its representatives.

So here we go: first point, we are aware that we are dealing with a vital issue for the history of Brazil, Brazilian democracy, which is not just a question of public security, it is a multidimensional issue. Genealogical allusions were made to circumstances from previous decades, the nature of our transition, private security, the way in which the police were structured and organized, which we inherited from the dictatorship and never reformed, never updated, regardless of the governments we had. We speak of structural racism and inequalities, of authoritarian capitalism without which there would be no endorsement, support for police brutality that was food and instrument, a mechanism that provided the autonomization of these criminal niches that ended up resulting in the militias. Finally, we draw a picture that is necessarily multidimensional. So the response, our reaction, our willingness to resist has to be multidimensional. We are going to have to act in multiple spheres and in many dimensions. In society, all other aspects must be discussed, from the issue of drug policy, mass incarceration, themes that I always deal with very intensively and that, due to lack of time, were not treated here.

We are going to have to deal with a large variety of issues. But I think there is a principle to follow: recognize the gravity of what is before us. A fascist president, who cannot impose a totalitarian regime, but is motivated by values ​​of a fascist nature, who finds a fragmented, let's say, heterogeneous audience, but who also rests on a solid base, albeit small, but solid, and finds support from history authoritarian Brazilian society, which means that we are facing a serious situation, a threat to democracy. And the militias are, in Rio de Janeiro, ostensible demonstrations that there are agents operating in the world of crime, squandering fundamental institutions for democracy and, therefore, corroding the foundations of democracy.

We are facing a serious and urgent situation. It is inadmissible and makes no sense that a group of political actors, most of them of democratic and progressive persuasion, continue to deal with this reality as if we were living a trivial, normal, common situation, taking care of their backyard, their career, of their project, and the parties taking care of their backyards, their own reproduction, their own projects.

Just as it seems inconceivable, as in the case of this pandemic, that someone who is aware of the seriousness of what we are facing has not stopped everything, suspended all the dynamics and logic and previous commitments, which are absolutely reasonable, justifiable, but which should now be suspended, for all of us to unite around saving lives during the pandemic, it is also equally serious that the responsible sectors are not mobilized to face the threat to life in the face of the genocidal actions of security policies and criminal justice, a voracious prisoner. Such confrontation is vital, essentially for Brazilian democracy itself. All those who unite in this feeling, in this perception, would not have to be divided around anything, no matter how significant the differences are. They could not overcome the union established by the recognition of the seriousness of this problem and by our willingness to defend democracy.

So, honestly, I cannot understand how our country lacks statesmen, great leaders with the courage to cut the meat, to sacrifice their parties and their projects, to speak frankly, to leave all games aside. And here we are in Rio de Janeiro, heading towards this unbelievable festival of spraying across the city, in a municipal election where the socially sensitive Democrats are totally divided, each treating their own side of the line, as if we were in a normal Democratic situation. .

We are facing a pandemic that has been managed in a criminal way, and also facing the crimes perpetrated by the institutions of order, which generate genocide, and we continue with our hands dirty with blood when watching such a spectacle, which in the end is a manifestation of the old structural racism, of inequalities, but now on a hypertrophied scale, devouring what remains of civilized and democratic life. If I'm wrong, that's great. Everything is normal, peaceful; it was just a choke, a fright. But if I'm right, then we are moving away from any possible solution, because nobody has the solution in their pocket; because, to build it, we need collective work and great mobilization of society, and this has to start from this willingness to dialogue, to overcome these differences and to forget, for the time being, 2022, because maybe there won't be 2022, maybe we will not get there in effectively democratic conditions. Look what happened in Hungary and what is happening in Poland. We have the example of Bolivia close to us, with another methodology. We've seen what happened in the US and let's see what our outcome will be.

* Luiz Eduardo Soares he was national secretary of public security (2003). Author, among other books, of Demilitarize – Public security and human rights (Boitempo).

Originally published on the website Brazil, Amazon, now.


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