Tuesday, February 24, 2009
new criminals fight crime in Rio
Newsweek reports on a new phenomenon in Rio de Janeiro: the explosion of private security forces that are hired as an antidote to the power of the police and the drug gangs.
These private armies are 'shoot first' operations. In Gardênia Azul, on Rio's western edge, one 16-year-old kid was shot dead by the local guards because he was smoking pot. They dumped his body in the neighborhood square. The militia, the article says, "runs the favela with an iron heel and a hand in everyone's pocket, taking a cut of all local business and services." The reporter comments: "To millions of people trying to get by in some of the meanest streets in the hemisphere, life involves hedging your bets by grabbing at whatever safety net you can."
In Rio, he reports, "many militias are composed of off duty cops, cashiered prison guards, firefighters, and even condemned criminals who take orders from senior police and elected officials. A recent probe by Rio lawmakers named eight elected officials and 67 police as ringleaders in 171 favelas."
And "analysts estimate that policing is a $100 billion to $200 billion global business and a growth industry in the developing world."
While it's sad but true that private security is a big industry, and it may be that private security forces are on the rise in Rio, the article is a bit contradictory: Are the militias independent from the police, or are they taking orders from the police? Are they against the politicos or for them? Are they really taking on the drug gangs, or simply one more cog in a corrupt machine? After all, the drug gangs also have their hooks in to the cops. So is there anything really new here?