Highlights of an extensive Epoca magazine interview published yesterday, with State Public Safety Secretary, Jose Mariano Beltrame, by Ruth de Aquino.
Paramilitary gangs, milícias, are the priority now, not drug traffickers. ”Almost every week we arrest a militia member,” Mr. Beltrame said. When a judge who’d been tough on milicianos was gunned down in front of her home this past August, it was instantly clear they’d gone too far. Eleven military police, including a battalion commander, are behind bars now, accused of the killing. The assassination touched off a major shakeup in the military police hierarchy, starting with the chief’s resignation.
Rocinha favela will be pacified soon, and its druglord, Nem, may turn himself in. “Bring Nem. Great. It’s just a question of finding a time and place. No problem.”
The next police pacification units will be in Complexo da Maré, Vila Kennedy, Favela do Juramento, Cerro-Corá, Vidigal, Rocinha and Mangueira. The elite squad went into Maré Friday and residents have reported shooting since then. Mangueira residents, says Beltrame, still don’t understand what pacification police are. This might be because one of the city’s first acts there after the initial occupation was to knock down food trailers and booths outside the samba school rehearsal hall, a key source of income. Beltrame added that pacification will also include greater Rio municipalities, and the interior of the state, that it’s not just about the Olympics.
Pacification depends on energy mogul Eike Batista, in addition to substantial state and federal funding. Seven businessmen met with the governor last year to promise support, but Beltrame says that only Eike is shelling out the dough – $12 million per year until 2014. Peanuts, for him. Previously, Beltrame said that he hands Eike a shopping list and then gets whatever Rio’s Medici decides to buy. He’s bought pickup trucks for Morro do Borel and motorcycles for trash pickup on narrow steep streets. Beltrame added that Petrobras is paying for three administrative buildings on the Morro São Carlos and the Metro is helping out with soccer fields.
A full, rapid reform and unification of Rio’s several police forces, as recommended by public safety specialist and sociologist Luiz Eduardo Soares (and others) isn’t doable. “The institutions themselves have to feel the need,” said Beltrame. “Gradually they’re getting closer to each other. As they integrate, they prove that each one has a function…We inherited [the division between civil, investigative police and military, enforcement police] from the times of the [Portuguese] empire. You can’t decree things. Today, as Secretary, I think we’re still very far from having a police force with the whole cycle, from investigation to patrolling.”
The Army’s planned September exit from the Complexo do Alemão set of favelas was delayed until June 2012 because of a lack of manpower. “The Alemão pacification units [which will replace the Army] means 2,200 officers. It’s a lot. That’s why we have to train more people and make a gradual transition.” The Army presence has become controversial in the area, with residents complaining of violent treatment. Beltrame also said that police intelligences shows that drug traffickers are not returning to the area. “They go in and out, but they don’t stay. It’s minor stuff.”
Five hundred new police officers graduate every month. “We’re producing an average of 6,000 officers a year. We want to attract [candiates] who come with a different mentality. They must come not to kill. Today, still, when you take the rifle away from a police officer, he feels naked. It can’t be like this. One day it will be different.” The police academy is undergoing a makeover, with a new curriculum set for January 2012.
The issue of funk dances, a sore spot for many communities, will gradually be sorted out by way of dialogue between police and residents. Drug traffickers used to hold these dances but they were initially banned in most pacified favelas because the words to many songs glorify drugs and violence, and the noise level was high until early morning.
Crime in parts of the city such as Ipanema will continue to be investigated and patrolled against, despite the focus on pacification. The civil and military police must work together to find the “Rolex gang”, and others.
Despite rumors, Beltrame has no political ambitions, but doesn’t expect to stay in this job until the task is complete. Preferring investigatory work to politics, he wouldn’t mind a challenge on Brazil’s borders next, working to block drug and arms traffic.
QUIZ: How well do you know Latin American geography?
--- Julia Michaels, a long-time resident of Brazil, writes the blog Rio Real, which she describes as a constructive and critical view of Rio de Janeiro’s ongoing transformation.