Rio's transformation needs new phase
A plan to train all 55,000 military and civil police officers by 2015, in time for the Olympics, is a step in the right direction, writes guest blogger Julia Michaels.
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A great deal has been accomplished since Rio began its turnaround in 2007. After five disastrous decades, it’s as if we’ve managed to clear away piles of rubble in the last four years, and set up a generally acceptable and peaceable modus vivendi.
But the time has come to dig deeper, to bring in the bulldozers, and pour solid foundations for institutions that can withstand the vagaries of Brazilian politics. Success on this front would lead Rio to make an important contribution to the development of Brazil’s democracy, which dates only to 1985.
What has been accomplished
Crimes targeted by the new public safety policy continue to drop. The number of police pacification units continues to grow, with the current eighteen expected to jump to 28 by October, when ten units will set up in the Alemão and Penha favela complexes.
And, according to state Social Assistance and Human Rights Secretary Rodrigo Neves, Rocinha favela – together with Vidigal, a glaring reminder to the city’s South Zone that most of Rio’s 600-plus favelas still lie outside the state’s full domain – will soon be occupied and pacified.
The cable car system in the Alemão complex has begun operating, with apparent success at offering alternative transportation to the area’s 500,000 residents. Already, discount tours are being offered.
The challenges ahead
But State Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame recognized challenges in May, when he complained that social programs in pacified favelas were moving too slowly.
With the help of the UN Habitat program, the social UPP has now accelerated its pace to a new favela a week and is set to operate in all pacified communities by October. Millions of the city budget are going into trash collection, housing, police wages, lighting, drainage, mobility, sewage, and water piping, public areas, sports and leisure equipment, and water storage.
And O Globo newspaper brought excellent news yesterday on one of Rio’s most unsightly blemishes: police training and corruption. Plans are to change the classroom focus from war to peace, and open the door to outside instructors. Currently, for example, the BOPE elite squad site looks and sounds like an introduction to some kind of gang-cum-heavy metal band, light-years from the values of community policing. By 2015, all 55,000 military and civil police officers are supposed to have retrained.