Forget about an Internet Constitution or re-routing fiber optic cables out of American control. What Brazilians really need is for their government to take the security of its citizens seriously.
If the government, led by Dilma Rousseff, gave half of the attention it gives to the Internet to issues like poverty, security, taxation and corruption, Brazil wouldn’t need to worry about Internet security.
Neither Dilma’s government nor that of her predecessor, Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva have shown capacity to deal with the most basic problems that affect Brazilian people. While beggars flood the streets of any small city or large metropolis, while crime goes through the roof and while drug trafficking becomes more prevalent, the government in Brasilia has spent most of its time worrying about preparations for the World Cup and the Olympics in 2016.
Brazil has gone from being the “country of the future” to turning into what it was destined to be before foreign capital started flowing into the country. This foreign capital began to leave Brazil, due to the government’s incompetence and willful ignorance in the handling of the people’s business and the rampant corruption that runs through the veins of Brazilian politics.
An example of such corruption is that if a few months ago Brazilians had any hope that the perpetrators of the Mensalão scheme were on their way to prison, today, the tables have turned. Now, it is not clear whether any of those who were found guilty of a variety of crimes by the Brazilian Supreme Court will spend any more than a few months in jail.
If at the beginning of Dilma Rousseff’s mandate Brazilians believed that she would make a difference towards the goal of transforming Brazil into a first world nation, many believers have seen their hope turn into frustration. After almost four years of a Rousseff administration, Brazil is even poorer, more corrupt and less safe.
Neither the five years that have passed since the beginning of the project created to supposedly pacify the favelas, nor the noise created around the celebration of the two biggest sporting events on the planet, have done much to help deal with violence in Rio de Janeiro, for example, which is the city that will host the Olympics in 2016.
In fact, the government’s supposed effort to calm down the violence was such a failure, that for the past two days army men have been seen patrolling the streets and shopping malls in small cities located near World Cup host cities. Militarizing the country is not only an example of failure to provide security, but it is also a desperate measure to show that a clueless administration has a grip on the greatest threat to the shaky state of Brazil’s law and order.
The power of the drug gangs has been weakened considerably in recent years, the government says, but, as some experts warn, the main criminal factions have entrenched themselves in peripheral areas and from those positions are now controlled drug sales in strategic favelas as well as wealthy neighborhoods. The last eruption of this violence occurred last Tuesday in a favela resort located in the heart of Rio.
In other regions of the country, police in black masks assault poor neighborhoods in search for weapons and drugs, but as history and experience have shown, this is just a fruitless reactive measure.
After police and swat teams attack and clean a neighborhood, more weapons and drugs flow into a new area of the periphery and crime simply takes a new address in the thousands of poor slums all over the country.
In Brazil, politicians and police still believe that the answer to crime is force and violence. Even in that regard, drug traffickers know better than the government. Part of the reason why the Brazilian government cannot deal with security issues, is because a large portion of its police force is also heavily corrupted. The Military Police, for example, which is the strongest arm against crime, is known to be corrupt to the core. In many ways, having the Military Police combat crime is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.
In Rio, allegations of abuse and deaths of civilians who have nothing to do with drug trafficking groups occur each week while the state government launches police operations n a supposed attempt to hunt for criminals.
The idyllic relaxation for which Brazilians are known is sort of over now that the country is urged to respond to allegations of insecurity and corruption to international partners. Yet Brazilian politicians continue to show incapacity to solve the most pressing issue [ security ] as the 2014 World Cup is merely 2 months away.
Brazil is indeed at a turning point and two factors make this turning point a delicate situation. First, people who live in favelas, which accumulate great resentment towards an indifferent society and the politicians who have allowed crime and death to spread, continue to see themselves as second class citizens.
In fact, the success of the narco gangs here in Brazil came about as a consequence of the ‘symbiosis’ they forged with the poorest of the poor. The narcos who control the favelas and many other areas in Brazil filled a vacuum that government never cared to fill.
Spurred by the protest movements that have spread across Brazil since June last year and enhanced by the massive presence of the world media, the residents of the suburbs are now manifesting more anger by taking to the streets fighting government forces with stones, bats and fire while accusing members of the military police of violating their rights.
This scenario is only likely to get worse as the World Cup gets closer. Protesters warned since 2013 that they would go back to the streets in 2014. The government and the Military Police already announced their measures to deal with whoever is not happy about the government using billions of reais to build stadiums as supposed to building hospitals or investing in education.
The second factor is that despite the continuous government crackdown in some of the most popular cities around the country, World Cup host cities are now under a tense calm period that precedes the soccer tournament. Once seen as the home of entertainment, partying and cultural diversity, Copacabana has entered into a climate of fear due to the rise in crime, police shootings and the appearance of old and new narco cells such as the Comando Vermelho (CV ), a drug dealing organization that operates out of a slum in Rio de Janeiro.
Crime rates have risen in the past year in most of Brazil, but specially in important cities such as Rio, where despite increasing police activity, citizens feel they are being taken over by the dark shadow of an out of control criminal mafia. “We are in an election year and we will not make important decisions. It is clear that the UPP is in crisis, that crimes are growing and that advances in recent years are in jeopardy right now, “says sociologist, Ignacio Cano.
The statistics reported in the last eight years by the Public Safety Institute (PSI ) in Rio de Janeiro shed alarming numbers: the state has recorded 35,879 murders in this period. There are over 500 deaths a month caused by the endless violence. The statistics do not consider the more than 38,000 missing people and more than 31,000 attempted murders.
In other states of the country, where cities will also host World Cup matches, less serious crimes abound. Car thefts at gun point, burglaries, homicides and drug trafficking are part of the life of millions of Brazilians outside the large shiny trophy cities where the government seems to be dedicating most of its effort to curb violence.
There seems to be something really wrong in the plans created by the Rousseff administration. Meanwhile, the president and her aides seem too convinced about the success of their “Cup of Cups”, the name given by Rousseff’s government to the event that kicks off June 12 in the state of São Paulo.
But for those who see reality from outside the government’s optimism bubble, warn that things could get much worse and that such outcome depends not on politics or security, but on the success of the Brazilian national soccer team.
“Knowing how the Brazilian population behaves in times of World Cup, we can expect a rise in social unrest if they are eliminated prematurely. If Brazil ends up winning, collective euphoria will stifle any possibility of protest,” says Cano.
But before the Brazilian national team is either eliminated or crowned as champions, there is another caveat that could make the powder keg explode. President Dilma Rousseff’s promised to silence popular protests. So far, despite some confrontations between police and protesters, none of the street fights have resulted in significant violence, but as the World Cup gets closer, street protests are prone to increase and police will have to deal with two fronts: criminal gangs and unhappy tides of citizens on the street.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute. Read more about Luis.