Drugs & Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, & Public Security

By Enrique Desmond Arias | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
Thinking about Social Violence in Brazil

Recently, drug traffickers based in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have attacked government buildings, bombed buses, and successfully ordered widespread business closings.1 Over the past decade, murder rates have averaged 50 per 100,000, in line with the most violent U.S. cities, and overall rates may actually be even higher as a result of increasing rates of disappearances. In poor districts, murder rates can exceed 150 per 100,000 inhabitants.2 Indeed, riding this wave of criminal and police violence, human rights abuse has increased in Brazil since its transition to democracy two decades ago.3 Things have gotten so bad that an enraged press and parts of the academic establishment declare that parallel “powers,” “authorities,” or “states” have emerged in the city’s favelas, where criminals oppose the rule of law and act as judge, jury, and executioner.4

Brazil is not alone in suffering high levels of ongoing social violence. More than twenty years after authoritarian regimes began to fall, the region’s democracies are far from perfect.5 Much of this growth in violence arises not from expanding systematic state abuse but, rather, comes out of burgeoning crime feeding off the world cocaine market, the expansion of the international arms trade, and the changes in state institutions in an era of globalization. In Colombia, Jamaica, Peru, and Mexico, governments have lost control of some territory to guerrilla groups or gangs of highly organized, politically connected, drug dealers.6 Rising crime justifies repressive policing policies, corruption penetrates deep into the state, and, while the rich flee to walled communities, the poor are forced to rely on criminals and predatory police for protection.7 Why have things gotten so bad, and what can governments and social organizations do about it?

The drug traffickers that operate in Rio’s favelas are overwhelmingly impoverished, poorly educated, nonwhite adolescents and young men. They constitute collectively one of the most disempowered, discriminated against, and heavily policed populations in Brazil. How can a group with these characteristics pose such a serious threat to the city as a whole and hold such substantial power that they can establish “parallel” states in the midst of one of the most important cities in

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Drugs & Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, & Public Security
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface - Departure ix
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction - Thinking about Social Violence in Brazil 1
  • One - Setting the Scene- Continuities and Discontinuities in a "Divided City" 18
  • Two - Network Approach to Criminal Politics 39
  • Three - Tubarão 61
  • Four - Santa Ana 97
  • Five - Vigário Geral 130
  • Six - Comparative Analysis of Criminal Networks in Brazil and Latin America 169
  • Seven - Theorizing the Politics of Social Violence 189
  • Epilogue - Rio 2005 207
  • Notes 217
  • Bibliography 241
  • Index 269
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