The criminal underworld in Rio de Janeiro

Marcelo Guimarães Lima, Bombed city, digital painting, 2023


Those who adopted the thesis of political crime in the case of the doctors' murder are unaware of what happens in the criminal underworld in Rio de Janeiro

Most people ignore the close relationship between militiamen and police in Rio de Janeiro. In fact, not just with police officers, with military personnel as well. It is good not to forget that the former president captain ostensibly supported the militias in Rio. And also General Braga Netto: when he intervened in Public Security in Rio de Janeiro in 2018, he only attacked the drug traffickers and spared the militiamen, who continued to expanding.

It wasn't the police who clarified the murder of the doctors in Rio, it was the Comando Vermelho who, feeling harmed, executed the murderers for the “mess” they committed, and notified the police. Anyone who has never heard of the promiscuous relationship between drug traffickers and militiamen and police officers, civilians and military, is scared and feels more comfortable sheltering themselves in a conspiracy theory.

The direct agents of militias and drug traffickers are generally young people with primary education, probably incomplete. They are ignorant, stupid, stupid, prejudiced. Imagining that they have attitudes guided by reflection is a mistake. Some received information that the militiaman sworn to death was at the kiosk in Barra da Tijuca. They didn't check, they acted automatically, they are used to shooting first and asking questions later.

Militiamen force residents to buy essential goods from them, such as gas, transport, food, TV, etc. And they control appointments to positions in hospitals, schools and city halls. The territory of the militias has been increasing, today it already exceeds 50% of the city of Rio de Janeiro. They function as a true parallel state: they impose taxes and have a monopoly on violence in their territory. In Max Weber's well-known definition, the State is characterized by the “monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory”. Militiamen have a monopoly on physical force within a territory. Only, violence is illegitimate.

Those who adopted the thesis of political crime in the case of the murder of the doctors, due to the fact that one of them was the brother of a deputy, and another, the cousin of a deputy, are unaware of what happens in the criminal underworld in Rio de Janeiro. It is important to remember that the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro was elected with the support of militiamen, who practically force residents to vote for their candidates, under penalty of reprisals.

In fact, as a matter of fact, President Lula appointed – and later fired – to the Ministry of Tourism the wife of the mayor of Belfort Roxo, in Baixada Fluminense, a politician linked to the militia. Thus, the power of the militia is not limited to the state or municipal government, it already had a representative in the federal government. Or rather, it did again, in the last government there were several.

After these initial considerations, what does the murder of doctors in Rio indicate? Militiaman kills a drug dealer, is sentenced to death. Traffickers kill doctors thinking one of them was a militiaman. They end up being killed by the bosses. The “screw up” they did harms the business, the criminal court is quick and does not forgive.

This is the real underworld of militiamen and drug traffickers. They do not act according to Cartesian logic. Anyone who is unaware of this reality should read Bruno Paes Manso's book, The republic of militias. It will “get real”. The comparison with the murder of Marielle Franco is absurd. This was a clearly political crime, the person who ordered it was certainly linked to some sphere of public power.

Nothing to do with the murder of doctors as a result of the war between militiamen and drug traffickers. The “parallel state” quickly sentenced the perpetrators to death. According to reports, the Penitentiary Administration Secretariat reported that a Comando Vermelho Commission, which is located within the Maximum Security Prison, ordered the execution. Some people were surprised by the police's speed in solving this crime. But it wasn't the police who clarified the murder of the doctors, it was the Red Command.

As we said before, underneath the militia and police mix, they are often one and the same. And, on top of that, they usually have political support from the power they helped elect. This is the tragic reality in Rio de Janeiro today. In operational terms, this is very complicated chess. At the request of a militia or drug faction, the PM attacks a community – usually in a favela – and fights the bandits.

If a police officer dies, hours later or the next day the police return and shoot at random, killing residents, including children and the elderly. The bandits have already left, they have escape routes, but the police want revenge and kill innocent residents, generally black and poor. It's murder in the name of the law. This is routine for the PM in Rio.

On this subject, let's see what Luiz Eduardo Soares, one of the greatest scholars of Public Security in Brazil, says: “The transition partially supervised by the military imposed restrictions on the constituent process and bequeathed to us two articles (142 and 144), which are sarcophagi of our history: they mummified the armed forces and police, as they existed during the dictatorial regime, blocking the winds of change that the emerging democracy was blowing. Result: two institutional enclaves were created, refractory to political, civil, republican authority. Therefore, the genocide of young black and poor young people, in vulnerable territories, in the face of the complicit inertia of the Public Ministry, the immobility of Justice, the endorsement of politicians -not only on the right-, the applause of sectors of the media and opinion public, and the consent of other institutions, which are said, ironically, to 'work'” (“Independence and Death, shout the Rio de Janeiro police", The Earth is Round, 14/4/2023).

In another article, dated 30/10/2020, he gives us a clear definition of militia: “Militias are criminal organizations formed by military and civilian police officers, former police officers, firefighters and members, who dominate communities by force of arms and control territories. , aiming to extract illegal benefits from the work of others and public property, managing to obtain, through coercion and constraint, obedience, profit and vote, and consolidating, over time, prestige, influence and authority”

The chessboard of violence in Rio becomes even more complicated because the alliances between drug trafficking and militia factions are not permanent: yesterday's enemy can be today's ally and become an enemy again tomorrow. Violence is the harsh reality at the base of society. The romantic vision of a city full of scoundrels and the police receiving bribes from gambling is a thing of the past. This “golden” phase, sung in prose and verse in the songs of great samba artists, such as Noel Rosa and others, no longer exists. The Rio scoundrel was swallowed by the militiaman.

According to former deputy Marcelo Freixo, who presided over the memorable Militia CPI in the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro in 2008, “the police benefit from crime, they are part of the crime. The drug factions were all born in prison. Militia is not born in prison, militia is born in the Palace. Militia is born in the relationship between politics and territory, with corruption and control of the territory for elections. Militia was born as a mafia, as a project to weaken democracy.”

In the same vein, another scholar of armed groups in Rio, sociologist José Claudio Souza Alves, from the Federal Rural University of RJ, told Folha de S. Paul, on 7/10/2023, that “Rio de Janeiro has a tradition of coexistence of armed groups connected to the public security structure. The murder in Barra da Tijuca is the result of this. Traffickers and militias have their disputes with each other, and in each armed group there is the presence, collusion, gain and interests of public agents. Not only from the Executive, especially public security, but from the Judiciary and the Legislature. These groups will continue to function.”

Unfortunately, what prevails is the interest of politicians in winning votes controlled by militiamen. And police officers, whether civilian or military, participate in sharing the gains obtained from the violence imposed by militiamen and drug traffickers. This promiscuous and spurious relationship is the basis of Public Security in Rio de Janeiro.

If Brazil is not for beginners, Rio de Janeiro challenges even experts.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). []

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