Journal of Human Security | 2016 | Volume 12 | Issue 1 | Pages 74–90
ISSN: 1835–3800
Journal of
Human Security
Research Article
Rio De Janeiro’s Olympic Legacy: Public Security for Whom?
Lea Rekow
Arts, Education & Law Group, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Green My Favela, 59 Franklin St, suite 303, New York, NY 20013, USA. E-Mail:;
Tel.: +1 16462572587
Submitted: 3 August 2015 | In revised form: 14 July 2016 | Accepted: 21 July 2016 |
Published: 15 August 2016
As Rio de Janeiro struggles to hold itself together through the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, its
much lauded public security Games plan, including its highly controversial police pacification program—long
promoted as one of the cornerstones of Rio’s Olypmic legacy—descends into a state of near total collapse.
This paper takes an intimate look at what is likely the last days of this contentious pacification policy, the
part it plays in the wider ‘Games Security Plan’, and how and why it has been implemented in the lead up
to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Keywords: favela; Olympics; pacification; public security; Rio de Janeiro; social policy
1. Introduction
Even before the World Cup and Olympic bids were secured,
the state government of Rio de Janeiro began to recraft
its image as a safe and glamorous mega-events wonder-
land. In order to satisfy the International Olympic Commit-
tee, the city focused on overturning the city’s reputation for
violence—and violent policing—especially inside its urban
favelas, made up of a assortment of informal and irregu-
lar settlements, occupations of abandoned buildings, and
substandard government housing complexes that together
weave a loose fabric over Brazil’s second largest mega-city.
A “Games Security Plan”, devised by the state and put into
operation by all of Brazil’s three government levels (federal,
state and municipal)—was launched as one of the great-
est legacies of the Olympics [
]. It was implemented in
two divisions: the “Public Security Integrated Regions” for
the asfalto (formal city); and the “Police Pacification Units”
(UPP) in the favelas.
Rios police pacification campaign officially launched
in 2008. Since that time, 38 of Rio’s 763 favelas have
been occupied by a range of Rio’s Special Ops troops and
military police including the UPP police, BOPE (Elite Spe-
cial Operations Batallion troops), Choque (Shock troops),
and CORE (Civilian Police Special Resources police). To
date, 9,543 UPP officers [
] have been installed in ef-
forts to ‘pacify’ those favelas in proximity to mega-events
venues and tourist areas throughout the city. With one
or two exceptions, all UPPs are located in areas crucial
to the commodification of the city—that is, the hosting of
mega-sporting events, athletes villages, tourist facilities,
important traffic and transportation routes, and Games
headquarters (Figure 1).
The priority of the UPP is to take control of desig-
nated favelas that are informally governed by armed
drug gangs and corrupt ex-forces militias. The concept
was sold using terms such as ‘community policing’ and
‘sustainable security’, and promoted as being concerned
with providing human security [
], however pacification
relies almost exclusively on traditional military force to
achieve the state’s geopolitical goals of controlling terri-
tory, people, and resources. As a result, the people in
Rios favelas are subjected to many forms of politically
engineered violence.
2016 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published
under a Creative Commons Attribution License (
Figure 1.
Map of Rio de Janeiro showing pacified fave-
las in relation to Olympic venues, tourist sites, and major
transportation routes.
As a military offensive, pacification serves multiple ends.
It utilizes a range of police forces to ensure that many of
the goals of the government’s rapid urbanization agenda—
Rio’s greater Olympic Legacy—are met. This urbanization
agenda theoretically encompasses the social component
of pacification, that is, to provide favela residents with the
public and social services and infrastructure necessary to
elevate their citizenry rights. However, Rio’s pacification
has come to be exposed as little more than the military
facilitation of David Harvey’s concept of “accumulation by
dispossession” [4], justified by the ‘war on drugs’ [5].
From the beginning, the pacification policy has been
supported by a heavily funded media campaign. Follow-
ing the winning of the Olympic bid, Rio’s marketing budget
underwent substantial growth. From 2006 to 2009 the mu-
nicipality’s annual expenditure on advertising, marketing
and media increased from R$100,000 to R$ 800,000. After
Mayor Eduardo Paes took office in 2009, the marketing
budget jumped to R$ 29 million (for 2010), and by 2015 it
had reached a staggering R$127 million [
]. Much of it has
been used for the marketing of pacification in relation to the
Olympics. However, as the Games draw closer, the appeal
of military pacification has worn thin, and the cracks that
have always been present in the policy have widened into
gaping fissures. The police were responsible for one in five
homicides in the city during 2015, and the rates continue to
escalate during the final count down to the Olympics. Not
even Rio’s marketing campaign, championed by Brazil’s
right-wing media conglomerate [
], can keep spinning a
positive story.
There are many aspects to pacification, far too great for
the scope of this paper to cover [
]. Even within the policing
framework of pacification, there are too many moving parts
to discuss within this context [
]. Therefore, this paper aims
to provide a background understanding of pacification policy
in relation to the context of military ‘policing’ and how and
why policing tactics have evolved to play out on the ground
as the Games draw near [
]. Its intent is to impart a broad
understanding of how pacification policy functions for those
living in pacified favelas, and outlines how public security
policy and the Games Plan in general, is affecting the city
as a whole.
To this end, this paper describes how UPP and other
Special Ops forces are operating in favelas, and how other
military deployments are being positioned so that they can
be deployed more broadly across the city for the Olympics.
It discusses what impact these operations are having on
favela residents and their right to the city, particularly as it
relates to their personal security. In this context, the resi-
dents’ right to the city is determined not only by the right
to access to public space and resources, but freedom of
mobility, and the collective right to be involved in how their
favela neighborhoods are being shaped through policing.
2. Scope & Method
This paper begins by providing a brief historical context
that lays the groundwork for examining the city’s pacifi-
cation framework and urbanization-related public security
initiatives connected to the 2016 Olympic Games. It then
examines how the police are operating on the ground in-
side the favelas and outlines issues of militarization and
police violence and how this ties to Olympic urbanization
activities and a political and judicial framework that serves
Rios elite public officials and large private interest groups.
It explores the socio-economic cost of the Olympic fallout,
and lastly offers policy considerations for understanding
the difficulties in limiting Rio’s political landscape of cor-
ruption and violence.
The information has been derived from qualitative field-
work conducted by the author in five of Rio’s north and south
zone favelas and favela complexes between the years 2010
and 2016. It tries to describe key dimensions that have
impacted on pacification policing policy and procedures un-
dertaken to effect public security conditions inside favelas.
These conditions are subject to rapidly-evolving sets of pre-
carious and fragile policy variables that render it impossible
to measure the real-time impact of public security policy
as it plays out in the lives of everyday people during the
Olympic Games. Its aim is, therefore, to provide a general
overview of how pacification operates, how it is linked to
urbanization activities, how residents are being affected
within the pacification scenario, and how the city has been
affected by the Olympics, and the policing and criminal
justice policies that surround it.
The author has used a mixed methodology approach
based on multi-year qualitative research that has been
cross-analyzed against a range of empirical data. Qualita-
tive information was derived from direct observations, con-
versations with favela residents, meetings with citizens’ com-
mittees and Residents’ Associations, interactions with drug
traffickers, UPP officers, government urbanization work-
ers, and municipal stakeholders. Empirical research has
included an examination of articles of law, statistical data
], municipal and state development plans, architectural
design documents, human rights reports, and mainstream
and independent media reportage. Participation in con-
ferences, meetings, and reviews of literature produced by
other researchers [
] engaged in analyses of Rio’s mega-
events and urbanization activities also provide a foundation
with which to check and balance the paper.
3. Historic Backdrop
Rios favelas began to develop toward the end of the nineteenth
century as the country abolished slavery and transformed from
a Portuguese empire into a Republic. As informal settlements
grew, urbanized, and became more heavily populated, resi-
dents organized internally to form associations and create the
basic infrastructure that the government had failed to extend
to their communities, such as channels for sewerage, trans-
portation systems, roads, informal real estate title exchanges,
and commercial enterprises. State [
] abandonment, sporadic
government-led military police incursions, forced population
removals, and the slow takeover of territory by drug trafficking
gangs, however, has progressively limited residents access to
public security, spatial mobility, social infrastructure, and earning
capacity beyond any kind of subsistence existence [13].
Rio has always been characterized by a great divide be-
tween wealth and poverty, and in recent years the income
gap has begun to increase even more, making it one of
the most unequal cities in the country [
]. The favelas
are estimated to house more than 1.4 million people, or
27% of the city’s population [
]. 20.7% of the city live in
households with a per capita income of less than half the
minimum wage, roughly equivalent to US$ 6 a day [
]. Ex-
isting on half of that, 9.2% of the population survives on less
than a quarter of the Brazilian minimum wage—earning just
US$ 3 a day. In pacified favelas, the poverty rate is even
higher—with a third of the population (34.5%) earning less
than US$ 6 per day, and almost 1 in 8 households (12.8%)
existing on less than US$ 3 per capita a day [
]. In general,
the opportunity to earn a living wage is low at best, and out
of reach for the overwhelming majority.
The 1980s brought new power bases, struggles, and eco-
nomic opportunity to Rio through the US-led ‘war on drugs’.
The city was transformed into a principal point for the in-
ternational transit of cocaine and a large domestic market
in itself, and the favelas—where State presence was never
well established—became ideal territories from which drug
trafficking gangs could operate. Over time, the scaling-up of
the drug trade (that before had been limited to local residents
dealing small quantities of home-grown marijuana) to traffic
large quantities of cocaine, gradually resulted in absolute
gang control over many of the city’s favelas.
As cocaine replaced marijuana at the bocas (drug sales
points), drug networks and power relations began to change.
A new generation of heavily armed young foot soldiers gov-
erned by “micro-level warlords” [
] created a system of
governance whereby teenage boys patrolled the streets
with everything from AK-47s to Goliath rocket launchers.
These youths bear resemblance to child soldiers in that they
operate within armed factions with military-grade weapons
inside a command structure that controls territory, people,
and resources [
]. However, they are also interwoven into
the fabric of the favelas through familial ties.
The dangers presented by gang culture, as well as turf
battles between any combination of gangs, police, and mili-
tias (gangs of corrupt police and prison guards who operate
as guns-for-hire), have continued to place residents in the
crosshairs of armed conflict. These conflicts closely resem-
ble other global security situations that are formally defined
by International Humanitarian Law as ‘non-international in-
ternal armed conflicts’ [
] that, at times (and especially at
this current moment) bear a notable resemble to war zones
]. In the favelas, the impact of these conflicts is strikingly
evident. Almost one in five people have had a family mem-
ber fall victim to homicide, and levels of youth homicide are
estimated to be seven times that of the rest of the city [88].
The drug trade has clearly destroyed autonomous agency
and brought much harm to the favelas. However, the State’s
institutionalized culture of extreme police brutality has also
taken a heavy toll on favela residents. Rio’s many notorious
police forces have consistently been criticized for their blatant
disregard of human rights. Following the formation of BOPE
in the early 1990s, conflict between the drug gangs and the
police rapidly escalated. BOPE troops were incentivized
by policies such as the ‘Wild West gratuity’, implemented
from 1995–1998, which increased a police officer’s monthly
salary according to how many ‘criminals’ an officer killed.
The policy was credited with a drastic spike in the number
of extra-judicial killings at the hands of the police during this
era, a trend that increased over the years to reach its height
in 2007 when there were a recorded 1,330 killings across
the city at the hands of Rio’s police forces.
At this time, the federal government launched the Na-
tional Program for Public Security and Citizenship (Pronasci)
to tackle the country’s public security problems in prepara-
tion for a series of mega-sporting events, including the Pan
American Games (2007), the FIFA World Cup (2014) and the
Olympics (2016). Rio de Janeiro was prioritized as a funding
recipient to receive a large portion of the US$ 2.12 billion
pledged to be invested over a five year period in collabora-
tive actions coordinated by states and municipalities [
The program aimed to carry out a set of interdisciplinary
joint crime prevention operations which were to be designed
with the “participation [of] the community” through programs
“aimed at improving public safety” [
]. Thus, the military
pacification campaign was born.
The Pronasci funds allocated to finance the UPP were dra-
matically strengthened by the governments largest private sector
partner, the EBX Group, owned by businessman Eike Batista,
who between 2011 and 2013 invested R$ 20 million per year
(more than US$ 25 million in total) in UPP security equipment,
vehicles and technologies [
]. Batistas financing of the UPP
program was almost five times higher than the government fund-
ing allocated to the military pacification units. By the end of
2013, however, both EBX and Batista’s oil conglomerate OGX
] had filed for bankruptcy [
], and Batista had become the
target of a federal investigation by Brazilian regulators. Batistas
withdrawal from the UPP partnership in 2013, the phasing out of
Pronasci funding around the same time, and Brazils deteriorating
economy, has collectively dealt the campaign a huge financial
blow [
]. Yet despite the mounting economic challenges, the
campaignfor the time beingcontinues to hold.
4. The UPP Framework
The legal existence of the UPP is based on a very lean
regulatory framework consisting of just a few decrees [
The criteria for selecting locations for pacification, as laid
out in legal text, are poor communities with a low institu-
tional presence and a high degree of informality, and where
armed criminal groups affront State democratic law. The
three main objectives of the UPP are:
to consolidate state control over communities under
strong influence of openly armed crime;
to return local people to a state of peace and public
tranquility that is necessary for the exercise of full
citizenship, and that guarantees development in both
social and economic terms; and
to apply timely, effective and plural instruments
with emphasis on mediation—to resolve events re-
lated to conflict [26].
Corresponding social objectives, some of which are out-
lined in law, and others which have been publically stated,
include the installation of public services; the expansion of
the private sector; the regularization of land holdings; rapid
urbanization and the growth of economic development ac-
tivity; and the integration of pacified territories and their
inhabitants into the formal city. There are also objectives
that are deliberately avoided. These include a) ending drug
trafficking; and b) winning the war against crime [27].
With the UPP focused on retaking territory, the State’s
narrative has changed from ending drug trafficking to the
disarmament of traffickers [
]. Thus, even though the UPP
has been promoted in connection with the ‘war on drugs,
it has shifted the public security debate to distinguish its
mission as a territorial issue, rather than one of eradicating
the city’s drug-trafficking economy [29].
The pacification process has followed four basic sequen-
tial steps:
Tactical intervention—initiated by Special Operations
military squads (BOPE and Shock Troops)—to estab-
lish territorial control;
b) Stabilization—through Special Ops siege actions;
c) Installation of specially assigned UPP troops;
Evaluation and monitoring by the Rio+Social pro-
gram [
], which occurs after ‘stabilization’ has been
achieved [26].
Military pacification occurs through a massive coordinated
military invasion of the favela—by BOPE, Choque, CORE, and a
range of armed forces and other police divisions. This is followed
by a BOPE occupation of the favela, which after a time transitions
from control to UPP units, with Special Ops troops continuing to
patrol and assist in operations when required (Figure 2).
Figure 2. UPP patrol, Manguinhos favela, 2013.
The pacification process is normally accompanied by
Choque de Ordems (Shock Orders) that shut down various
forms of informality [
]—by relocating or removing residents;
by closing unlicensed businesses; by outlawing particular
forms of cultural events such as baile funks (funk dance par-
ties); and by imposing curfews. These orders are enforced
by Special Ops troops and UPP officers who, until March
2016, continued to benefit from a modified version of the
Wild West policy, which has been reinvented, amended and
applied under a different name [
]. Up until this time, UPP
officers received financial compensation of up to R$ 9,000
(US$ 2,830) annually if they met their ‘crime reduction tar-
gets’ in the favelas [
]. This increase augmented an officer’s
salary by as much as an additional 80%. Approximately R$
200 million (US$ 63 million) of the R$ 1.8 billion (US$ 0.57
billion) invested by the municipality in pacification since 2008
was specifically spent on salary bonuses for UPP police who
met their target goals [
]. In April 2013 alone, almost 12,000
of Rio’s police officers and public servants received financial
bonuses for meeting their target goals [34].
Yet, the low base wages that Rio’s PM officers earn—
R$ 906 a month (2014), or approximately US$ 250—have
posed a critical problem in relation to corruption [
] and
made police an easy mark for traffickers. Many have been
accused of supplementing their incomes by working with
gangs to supply illegal weapons, to run drugs, or to provide
protection [
]. Frequently referred to as state-sponsored
killing, murder or death squads, pacification troops are esti-
mated to take seven years off the average life expectancy
of residents in Rio’s favelas [37].
5. A Landscape of Aggression
According to the official narrative, the process of pacification
brings peace and freedom to the residents of favelas [
Yet the police are regularly charged with taking bribes from
traffickers [
], of bribing witnesses [
], and of other forms of
extortion [
] and corruption [
]. Moreover, they are charged
with high levels of ongoing human rights violations, including
rape, murder, torture, and ill-treatment of detainees [34].
Those who are poor, young, and of African-Brazilian de-
scent are particularly vulnerable to falling victim to lethal vio-
lence perpetrated by police, organized crime, or death squads.
A UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report issued in
2015, voiced alarm at the lethal violence carried out by the
Military Police, the UPP, and BOPE against children in favelas
during Shock Order operations aimed at cleansing the city in
relation to mega-events, including the Olympics [43].
The UN Committee is deeply disturbed not only by the
extraordinarily high number of extra-judicial executions of
children by military police, militias, and civilian police, but by
a range of other violations of children’s rights. These viola-
tions include torture and disappearances of children during
military and other operations by security forces, particularly
in favelas; physical violence against children, including the
disproportionate use of tear gas and pepper spray during
forced evictions for urban infrastructure projects and/or the
construction of mega-event venues for sporting events; the
arbitrary arrests of children on the basis of combating or-
ganized crime; physical violence in police cars; the denial
of access to legal assistance and medical care; physical
violence during body searching; and sexual harassment of
girls during pacification operations [43].
A 2016 study commissioned by the committee and con-
ducted by sociologist Julio Waiselfisz claims Brazil ranks 3rd
place for child homicides (out of 85 countries analyzed). In
other words, 29 children per day are murdered in Brazil (2013)
]. Alarmingly, a 2010–2012 study by Waiselfisz also reveals
that, on average, youth murders by firearms are 285% higher
than for the rest of the population, meaning that for every four
children or teenagers killed by gun violence, only one person
from the rest of the population died the same way [45].
There is also widespread judicial impunity afforded to
the police for their actions. The state prosecutor’s office
dismisses 99.2% of incidences of death involving police—
even when evidence directly contradicts the police version
of events, points to the use of excessive force, or is a clear
cut case of unlawful killing [
]. This makes clear why peo-
ple living in Rio’s favelas are more scared of the police than
they are of either militias or drug trafficking gangs [47].
Another troubling statistic reveals that during S
Cabrals reign as Rio’s governor (2006-2014), nearly 40,000
people were documented as disappeared or missing (a rise of
32%) [
]. This figure correlates to the drop in homicide rates
during the same time period. And though homicide rates fell in
favelas during the initial years of pacification [
], between
2006–2011 the number of violent non-lethal incidents soared—
from 29.4 to 99 per 100,000 inhabitants. By 2014, reported
incidences of rape and domestic violence (previously outlawed
under gang rule [50]) had tripled under the UPP [27,51].
Outside of the favelas, the story of rising crime was
much the same. Between 2012 and 2013, pedestrian
robberies surged more than 32%, vehicle thefts rose
46.7%, assaults on buses jumped 118.4%, and cargo
theft soared by 175.6% [
]. By the end of 2014, mug-
gings (which have been steadily increasing over the last
decade) were up by more than 42% [53].
Since 2012, lethal violence has also risen substantially. The
citys homicide rate in Rios poorer North Zone in neighborhoods
such as Baixada Fluminense rose by 28% between January
2012 and September 2013. In the nearby commuter city of
oi, homicides rose by 27% due to criminal gangs relocating
after being forced out of pacified favelas [
]. The number of
people killed by Rio security forces between 2013 and 2014
spiked by 40% [
], there was a 69% increase in extra-judicial
resistance killings by police throughout the state, and a 77%
increase in the city. Overall, homicides in Rio were up more
than 18% statewide for January 2014 [
] (compared to the pre-
vious year), with a 4.3% rise in the city itself [
]. From January
through October 2014, 481 people were killed by the military
police in Rio, a hundred more than during the same period for
2013 [
]. And between 2013 and 2015, homicides resulting
from police intervention in the state of Rio de Janeiro increased
by 54%. To put it a different way, on an annual basis, the police
in Rio have been killing about the same amount of people as
do the entire police forces of the United States [
]. Most are
poor, between the ages of 15 and 29, and black. Nationwide,
77% of all homicide victims fall into this demographic [58].
In addition, pacification has dramatically increased the
number of favelas in which criminal militias operate in—from
six in 2004 to 148 in 2014. Militias have now spread beyond
the city to control 195 communities in 23 of the 90 munici-
palities throughout the state [
]. In January 2015, armed
confrontations between militias and traffickers accounted
for 80% of the 130 homicides that took place in Baixada
Fluminense [60].
Stray bullets also present a growing problem (Figure 3).
There were 111 people hit by stray bullets in Rio in 2013.
And in the first month of 2015, stray bullets injured 32 peo-
ple [
] and caused five deaths throughout the metropolitan
area, including those of women, young children, and adoles-
cents [
]. A 2014 UN paper based on 2009–2013 statistics
revealed that Brazil has the second highest number of stray
bullet incidents in Latin America (behind Venezuela) [
Rio’s Security Secretary Jos
e Beltrame has attributed the
majority of stray bullet shootings to “bandits’ attachment
to guns” [
] though anthropologist and former BOPE offi-
cer Paulo Storani, claims that it is more likely that a large
portion of the stray bullet problem is attributable to the paci-
fication’s displacement of drug traffickers [
] to unpacified
areas. This leads to attempted territorial takeovers of these
areas which are governed by rival gangs.
By 2016, the security situation in Rios favelas had started
to spiral out of control. According to Amnesty International
(AI), during the first quarter of 2016, homicides resulting from
police interventions in the city of Rio de Janeiro increased by
10% compared to the same period in 2015, by mid-2016 lethal
police violence had increased by almost 80%. In the first three
weeks of April alone, at least eleven of the citys favela residents
died in this manner [65]. By the end of the month, the number
had reached 78 statewide [
]. And civilians are not the only
casualties. In the first six months of 2016, 71 UPP officers were
shot in pacified favelas, thirteen fatally (Figure 4) [67].
Figure 3.
Spent shell casings collected from the ground
after a police shooting in the Manguinhos favela, 2015.
Figure 4.
UPP unit headquarters in Manguinhos, fortified
with cement barricades.
Having heavily armed and violent drug gangs govern
inner-city neighborhoods is clearly an untenable security sit-
uation, and no doubt some benefits have come from public
security interventions under the UPP. However, the single
most positive claim associated with life under UPP was that
residents would be more able to walk around the favelas
more freely without being subject to armed violence [
]. Yet,
social gathering spaces, whether indoors (for example, cul-
tural venues including children’s theaters) or outdoors (for
example, community gardens, parks or football fields) have
become indiscriminate shooting galleries for police. People
are not even safe from being shot while having lunch inside
their homes. Military operations have shut down schools,
kindergartens, health clinics, businesses, and access to
favelas. Being involved in protests against the tens of thou-
sands of forced evictions that have preceded the Games
also presents a risk to personal safety. A large majority of
residents now feel unable to move around their neighbor-
hoods without fear of being shot by police [68].
6. The Violence of the Games and the Judicial
Framework That Supports It
Since the announcement of the Olympics in 2009 through
to mid-2016, 2,500 people have been killed by police in Rio
]. Ask a mother in a favela how many children she has,
and she’s likely to answer, “I have X number of children,
Y are still living”. Although the escalation in police killings
cannot be directly linked to the Olympic preparations, these
numbers do connect Rio’s public security forces to an es-
calation in the use of excessive violent force ahead of the
Games. AI fears that “the risk of increased [rights] viola-
tions committed directly as a result of hosting the Olympic
Games is great” and that these violations may occur without
appropriate investigation or prosecution, as has been the
case in the past [
], especially during mega-events such
as the World Cup, when police killed 580 people in the state
of Rio de Janeiro, a 40% increase than in the previous year.
The number in 2015 was even greater—645 dead, most
uninvestigated [71].
Due to Brazil’s economic free fall, Rio’s State Security
Secretary Beltrame, announced at the end of the first quar-
ter of 2016 that Rio’s R$ 7 billion state security budget was
to be cut by about 35% for the year (a reduction of R$ 18
billion)—effective immediately [
]. As a result, the Games
plan to utilize approximately 65,000 police and 20,000 military
troops for Olympic security (the largest security operation in
Brazil’s history) [
] has been thrown into disarray. The public
security forces that were to be commandeered from other
states—now also in crisis—have been significantly reduced
] because of the strain on state coffers, some of which
have fallen to as low as US$ 10,000 [
]. Adding to the crisis,
several of Rio’s state civil police divisions’ salaries have been
withheld since March due to a lack of available funds [
For the moment, UPP salaries are being continued through a
special funding donation from Rio’s State Legislative Assem-
bly (Alerj), however the UPP crime reduction target bonuses
have been discontinued [
]. These laws are also expected
to contribute to the risk of rights violations.
In an effort to stem ongoing public discontent around
these issues, an array of bills and laws have been intro-
duced to crack down on almost any form of freedom of
public expression, especially around mega-events [
]. In
2013, just months ahead of the World Cup, the Ministry of
Defense issued the Guarantee of Law and Order (GLO)
]—a set of guidelines allowing wider discretionary use of
the military for law and order operations and to quash public
protests without transparency or accountability monitoring
mechanisms. The decree outlined an “operational plan” for
“disorder control in the urban environment”, and included
any social movement or opposition to “undermine public
order”. The GLO also aimed to craft the “flow of information
to the general public, especially the media” [7].
The approval of yet another federal Anti-Terrorism Act
(Law Project 2016/2015), passed this time just months be-
fore the Olympics, further criminalized the already strict
legal lockdown on exercising the right of freedom of assem-
bly. The law defines terrorism as the practice, by one or
more people, of sabotage, violence, or potentially violent
acts, “when committed with the goal of causing social or
generalized terror, or exposing people, public patrimony or
authority to danger” [
]. The deliberately vague language
used to define terrorism allows for any form of social protest
to be punished with up to a 30-year prison term. The Act is
expected to result in a further increase in unchecked police
violence during the Olympics, especially those that occur
in the favelas. Rafael Cust
odio, coordinator of Justi
a da
Conectas, states that on the eve of the Games, the govern-
ment “approved the Project on an emergency basis, without
any discussion with society, [as] an instrument to criminalize
collective protests movements”. Moreover, he claims that
“the legacy of the Olympics for Brazil will be the weakening
of [its] democracy” [79].
Going even further, in May, the Federal Government
signed the “General Law of the Olympics” [
] to impose
heavier restrictions upon the rights to freedom of peaceful
assembly in Rio. Essentially the new GLO is an even more
repressive reissue of the General Law of the World Cup. AI
calls it a failure by Brazilian authorities “to deliver the promised
Olympic legacy of a safe country for all [or] to ensure that law
enforcement officials meet international law and standards
on the use of force and firearms” [
]. Pacification is part
of this framework. They are the enforcers for what social
researchers Brito and Oliveira call “the transformation of Rio
de Janeiro into a large tropical theme park” [82].
Military police are on the frontlines of the violent and forced
evictions that have driven at least 67,000 favela residents from
their homes [
] all over the city to make way for Olympic facil-
ities, transit routes, and tourist sites. The police execution of
Shock Orders, which shut down informal businesses [
], typi-
cally follow, further undermining the already low chances that
the city’s poorer residents have of achieving socio-economic
stability [
]. None of this comes as a surprise. As David Zirin
has made clear, so much of the Olympics historically has
been about displacement and the repossession of land for the
wealthy at the expense of the poor” [86].
e Roberto Bassul asserts that in Brazil, State re-
sources and investments have always benefited the private
sector by adopting urban planning regulations that privi-
lege Brazil’s real estate and construction sector giants, and
moreover, that urbanism has long been characterized by
the private appropriation of public investments and the seg-
regation of large population groups who are excluded from
access to essential services, and who reside in favelas and
substandard government housing complexes. Thus, the
social struggles for the right to the city have traditionally
been linked to structural urban reform [
], and the military
police have systematically been used as the primary means
by which the public’s freedom of expression, and people’s
right to life, have been suppressed.
7. Into Debt: The Calamitous Fall of the Olympic City
Numerous urban reform projects have gutted the city’s poor-
est neighborhoods in service of the Olympics. James Free-
man discusses these at length in his paper “Neoliberal
Accumulation Strategies and the visible hand of Police Paci-
fication in Rio de Janeiro” (2012). Freeman links police
pacification to the violence of Rio’s entrepreneurial activi-
ties centered around developing the city as a mega-events
venue—a strategy which he sees as a clear cut case of ac-
cumulation by dispossession. He describes it as the state
engineering of “military conquest and control of territories,
and the capture of assets by force to create outlets for the
expansion of private capital” [
]. Rio’s mega-events have
caused so much civil unrest due to these processes, at
enormous public cost, that they haven’t even been able to
provide the ‘feel good factor’ of civic pride that normally
accompanies them [90].
It has been estimated that the Olympics may cost Brazil
as much as 0.7% of its GDP. The US$ 11.1 billion in esti-
mated costs (including more than a US$ 1 billion in security)
may eventually reach as much as US$ 16 billion. For Brazil
as a whole, the economic returns are dismal. The event is
expected to result in overall gains of less than 0.2% of GDP,
and no more than 12,000 in employment opportunities. The
IOC, which owns the majority of broadcasting rights for the
Games, is the largest revenue earner, accounting for almost
50% of total profit from the event.
As was the experience with the 2014 World Cup, the
Olympics have turned out to be much costlier than antici-
pated. Massive cost overruns for ‘Olympic legacy projects’
include exorbitant infrastructure spending, more-expensive-
than-envisaged sports venues, and cumbersome security lo-
gistics. In June, the IOC had to advance partial payment of the
US$ 1,045 billion due in August to stave off Rios cash deficit.
A cash shortfall of R$ 19 billion in Rio’s state accounts has
resulted in indefinite delays in pension payments to retirees;
thousands of government employee salaries being withheld,
including those of police, teachers and hospital workers; 70
schools being ‘occupied’ by students; the State University on
strike; and dozens of emergency health units and hospitals
being closed because of a lack of medicines and equipment.
The budget shortfall is in large part due to a dip in the
collection of VAT and oil royalties. According to the State
Court of Auditors, Rio granted R$ 138 billion in tax relief
between 2008 and 2013, much of which went to the pri-
vate construction and real estate development giants that
received the Olympic contracts. This led to the state’s tax
exemptions exceeding the amount of taxes collected. As a
result, in June, just seven weeks before the Games, Rio’s
acting Governer Francisco Dornelles declared a “state of
public calamity”, pleading for emergency funds in order for
the state to “honor commitments to the Olympics”. This
paved the way for Brazil’s Interim President Michel Temer
to inject R$ 2.9 billion in emergency funds into Rio for use
in expenses relating to the public safety of the Games.
Sources at the Rio Olympic Committee have confided that
R$ 1 billion will be spent just on the opening ceremony.
State Representative Marcelo Freixo calls the decree “un-
constitutional” [91].
The citys Olympic facilities contracts were bid on by only
one consortium—the Rio Mais syndicate—which consists of
Latin America’s largest construction and engineering giant,
Odebrecht [
] (whose former CEO is serving a nineteen year
prison sentence for corruption [
]); Andrade Gutierrez [
(which in May 2016 reached a US$ 286 million settlement in
a plea deal with federal prosecutors for its alleged role in a
massive corruption scandal involving oil company Petrobras);
and real estate titan Carvalho Hosken (which was recently
forgiven a municipal tax debt of R$ 7.6 million [95,96]).
The consortium was gifted the land to develop the
Olympic Park and will redevelop the site into luxury condos
after the Games. In addition to tax breaks, the city also paid
the consortium R$ 462 million for the Olympic development
work, and contributed another R$ 8 billion in infrastructure
to the area to enable the condo development. Furthermore,
thanks to Rio’s ‘exceptionality laws’, devised specifically to
fast-track Olympic development without public debate, the
consortium has also been able to bypass a range of building
codes and zoning restrictions. In turn, Odebrecht and real
estate property tycoon Carlos Carvalho have made enor-
mous campaign contributions to both the former Governor’s
and the Mayor’s political war chests [97].
Documents uncovered in March 2016 allegedly show that
Odebrecht executives are connected to R$ 1 million in sus-
pected bribes that link to two Olympic legacy projects [
As a result, in May 2016, federal prosecutors announced an
investigation of the city’s Olympic legacy construction projects
(it is the city government that oversees most Olympic con-
struction projects). The investigations include a probe into
the federal funds earmarked to build a series of sewerage
treatment plants to clean up Rios chronically polluted Guan-
abara Bay (a project which never transpired); an examination
of the five construction firms that are responsible for building
most of the R$ 39 billion in Olympic venues; the use of R$
1.76 billion in federal funding for ‘legacy’ infrastructure; the
R$ 8 billion renovation of Rios Porto Maravilha tourist area;
and the expansion of the citys metro line connecting the main
Olympic arena in Barra de Tijuca (another unfinished project
with a 50% cost overrun). Most of these projects have vio-
lently forced the relocation of hundreds of low-income families,
yet as Chris Gaffney commented to Dave Zirin in a recent
article published by The Nation, “The Construction Industrial
Complex of Brazil is similar to the Military Industrial Complex
of the USA” [
]. As such, it is likely to weather any corruption
probe. Even if the investigation directly links to misconduct
involving elected officials, it is certain that its scope will not go
so far as to include malfeasance by police [100].
Brazil’s Construction Industrial Complex may be reaping
in Olympic profits, but the country itself is suffering badly.
Brazil’s national budget deficit is expected to reach 12% of
GDP for 2016, and its gross debt-to-GDP ratio (currently
running at 70%) may rise to an incredible 85%. On a state
level, Rio has already defaulted on two payments of exter-
nal debt obligations to ADP (a French development bank)
and the Inter-American Development Bank. The state’s
overall debt has reached 225% of net current revenues, to
breach the 200% ceiling stipulated by Senate Resolution
#40 (2001). As of April 2016, the state’s deficit was amongst
the highest in Brazil [101].
The city is not faring any better with the second highest
debt ratio in the country. Mayor Paes claims he is confi-
dent the city can manage it, given the Fiscal Responsibility
Act, which offers a debt ceiling of up to 120% of revenue
(currently it is at 30%). However, in the last three years
city revenues have decreased and unemployment and infla-
tion are on the rise. In addition, immediately following the
Olympics almost 30,000 construction workers will be out
of jobs, and that is just one employment sector. Further-
more, repayments on the municipality’s US$1,045 billion
World Bank loan (for urbanization and development) begin
in 2017 [
]. Rio’s financial collapse has strained a range
of critical public services, including public security. Police
helicopters have been grounded, patrol cars are without
gasoline, police salaries are being withheld, and incident
reports can’t be written because there is no paper to print
them on, or printers left with ink. And there are a lot of
incidents to report in the formal city, where street robberies
have risen to an 11-year high [
]. Many police units are
relying solely on donations of stationery, cleaning supplies,
and toilet paper to remain functioning at all. At a civil police
protest held at Rio’s Gale
ao airport at the end of June, dis-
gruntled officers greeted international arrivals with a banner
that read “Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get
paid—whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe”
]. The following day, mutilated body parts washed up
on the beach in Copacabana near to the Olympic volley-
ball pavilion. The police continue to occupy Terminal 2 at
ao and to march in protest along the main avenue
leading to and from the airport.
The federal government, under Interim president Michel
Temer, claims there is “a solid security program” in place for
the Olympics. Soldiers, helicopters and naval vessels have
been federally deployed to bolster security operations for the
event (Figure 5), but state authorities continue to delay civil
police salaries and scale back pacification ambitions. As the
crisis deepens, publically aired malcontent between city and
state leaders about how public security is being mismanaged
continues to grow [
]. In a city of 12 million people where
armed muggings, stray bullets, fatal car-jackings, and favela
wars are escalating, and public servants no longer being paid,
there is public anger at the R$ 2.9 billion emergency funds
that have been redirected away from critical needs to service
the Olympics, especially at a time when the Chief of Civil Po-
lice, Fernando Veloso, admits he “can’t discard the possibility
of a [security] collapse” because police are “at the limit of
[their] operational capacity” [74].
Figure 5.
Troops stationed in Copacabana for the Olympics.
8. The Inter/National Security Framework
Brazil’s federal interim government have orchestrated a se-
ries of international security actions that are coordinated
through the Centre for International Police Cooperation
(CCPI) as part of an ‘integrated system of command and
control’. The operations are implemented by the Ministry
of Justice and Citizenship’s Special Secretariat of Security
for Major Events (Sesge). The CCPI and the Anti-terrorism
Integrated Center (CIANT) is cooperating with Interpol, Eu-
ropol, Ameripol, and 250 police representatives from 55
countries to provide Olympic security [
]. The efforts
are led by federal police and headquartered in two com-
mand and control centers in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia.
They are fashioned after the FIFA Confederation (2013) and
World Cup (2014) security operations which led to mas-
sive violations of human rights perpetrated by police [
The largest police operations focus on deploying integrated
mobile teams of federal police and military units to secure
areas in and around competition venues, many of them
inside the favelas [
]. It is the largest international police
cooperation action in the history of both Brazil and Interpol.
The vague language of ‘terrorism’ as it appears in the
legislation that supports these operations, suggests the mil-
itary deployments will be focused on amplifying operations
in the favelas and to crack down on public protests. Despite
the range of security assurances offered, and the thousands
of troops deployed, the security situation has continued to
be plagued with problems. Weeks before the Olympics
some security contracts for basic safety equipment had yet
to be awarded. In April, Col. Moreira, commander of one
of the key Olympic security forces—the National Force for
Public Security–resigned his post without explanation [
Two weeks before the start of the Games, National Secu-
rity Force troops charged with securing the main Olympic
venue threatened to abandon their posts due to the poor
conditions they have had to endure—living in government
housing blocks with a lack of water, clogged sinks, leaking
sewerage, without bathrooms, showers, or bed rooms, be-
ing fed rotten food in a neighborhood surrounded by favelas
dominated by militias and traffickers [107].
9. A Legacy of Corruption and Insecurity
Corruption, violence, and insecurity have always been per-
vasive in Brazil. The police’s right to use violence, as sanc-
tioned by the judiciary, in order to protect State interests
is representative of just one aspect of this. The ongoing
violence around the Olympic developments is only the most
recent manifestation of political elites protecting their con-
nections to private business interests.
In Rio, the police and the courts are the public insti-
tutions most directly involved in determining the seizure,
control, and distribution of property rights. The Police—as
the State’s enforcing institution—has the strongest influence
on determining the de facto ownership status over property.
This is most obviously demonstrated in the questionable
legality of Rio’s seizure of favela territory and the mass evic-
tions and ‘social cleansing’ operations that have ensued.
Control over land has had a direct impact on shaping police
actions in relation to these land grabs. The violence with
which they have occurred has undermined any informal (yet
legitimate) property rights of the poor, without neutralizing
the ongoing threat posed by the criminal actions of gangs.
The link between violence, economic inequality, political
corruption and economic growth is a key and persistent
theme across the city and state [
], with the police play-
ing a pivotal role in the institutional nexus of the urbaniza-
tion/development paradigm. In the favelas, police do not
even have to claim that their victims are armed for them to
justify extrajudicial killings. Due to inconsistencies in the
public’s and the police’s reporting of crime, it is impossible
to quantify the full impact of police activities inside these
communities in terms of human and social cost. However,
it can be said that the state’s semi-legal seizure and vio-
lent control of favela property for the Olympics has been a
key determinant in generating enormous private, short-term
economic profit from the city’s urbanization and develop-
ment agenda.
Violence occurs in Brazil to such a degree that it has
become a societal norm. To put it in context, between 2004
and 2007, there were 23,000 more deaths by homicide in
Brazil than deaths occurring through armed conflicts in Iraq,
Sudan, Afghanistan, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Sri Lanka, India, Somalia, Nepal, Pakistan, India,
and the Israel/Palestinian territories combined [
]. Though
homicide rates in Rio’s favelas dropped between 2007 and
2012, they are again rising at an alarming rate. In Rio, one
out of five homicides are attributable to police. The major-
ity of those killed are poor, black youths living in favelas
]. Sharp spikes in extra-judicial killings and rights viola-
tions perpetrated by police transpire exponentially during
mega-events, and occur with impunity.
In economic terms, police violence costs the country the
approximate equivalent of 1.2% of the country’s GDP annu-
ally [
]. Security costs due to mega-events increase this
number substantially. Despite years of political rhetoric that
has espoused Rios pacification campaign as a cornerstone
of Rio’s Olympic legacy, and a promoter of sustainable eco-
nomic growth, citizen participation, and good governance
], it is clear that neither it, nor Rio’s public security Games
Plan in general, has done much to provide public security
for the city.
Rather, Rio’s militarism is part of a wider framework of
‘structural violence’ that produces suffering—both directly
through acts of violence, torture, and murder, and indirectly
through an institutionalized political social pathology that
results in dispossession, lack, and insecurity. Paul Farmer
stresses these “offensives against human dignity” (2003: 8)
are disproportionately perpetrated against the poor (2003:
50) and link to other invisible forms of structural violence that
are produced by transnational political-economic processes
(2003: 18) [
]—such as the Olympics. The interrelated
profit-making goals of the economic elite, government, and
the IOC, directly connect Rio’s militarized violence to the
flow of global capital. That is, the processes of exploita-
tion and human rights abuses the police are enforcing on
the ground are historically, institutionally and economically
driven by the State, but attached to a privileged handful of
government-backed private stakeholders that have been
able to profit in the billions from Olympic development op-
portunities. It is a politico-economic arrangement crafted
through a coalition of laws, policies, privatization, and polic-
ing, designed to maximize profiting-making. It amounts
to what Mike Davis describes as “a form of low-intensity
warfare” [111].
Police in Rio are accredited as being responsible for
more than 5,000 civilians deaths in the years since the
announcement of the winning the Olympic Games bid, ac-
counting for 16% of homicides overall during this period.
Those killed by police in revenge killings and summary exe-
cutions include children as young as ten years old. Social
media posts by police proudly boast that police “go into
the favelas to kill” [
]. UPP and Special Ops troops run
through the favelas daily with assault rifles drawn, pointed,
and ready to fire. As an outsider working in favelas, I have
experienced this myself many times. And it is terrifying. It
is difficult to blame the police, who, from their perspective,
could be shot at any time. It is the policy that is funda-
mentally flawed. Military pacification without community
dialogue or social investment makes it impossible to build
trust. As a result, institutionalized violence pushes people
toward placing more trust in trafficking gangs and illegal
militias than in State-sanctioned ‘law enforcement’ [47].
The return of territory to the state is a necessary foun-
dation for the improvement of Rio’s public security, and
if instituted alongside investments in social infrastructure,
judicial reform, and without dispensation of impunity. In-
deed, the UPP program—as an authentic form of com-
munity policing—could potentially have been used as an
instrument to aid in the repair of social rights. The direct
relationship between citizens and their territorial rights, both
through legislation, and as embodied experience, could
have been fundamental in creating the democratic right
to the city for the people living in favelas. However, as it
stands, the UPP is not a means with which peace or public
security has been restored [
]. Nor has it delivered the
promised legacy of a safe city for the Olympic Games [
Yet, as Mark Neocleous has pointed out, these goals have
never been its objective [5,113].
The flaws in Rio’s security-driven logic and its militarized
management of the favelas, and the flow of capital behind
it, are apparent. Just a month before the Olympics, a 78%
increase in the number of deaths from police actions (up
from 47 deaths in February to 84 in May), means Rio’s
police are now killing one person every nine hours. AI has
even launched an app. called Cross-Fire for people to use
as a tool to “document gun violence in Rio ahead of the
Olympics” and “to urge the authorities to take some real
steps to tackle the crisis” [
]. It is part of AI’s “Violence
has no place in these Games!” campaign. In addition to
the right to life, freedom of online expression is also being
curtailed. On the first day of July, two men were arrested for
publishing criticism of police on the Internet [
]. Police
are also starting to test their ability to block cell phones
during the Games [116].
Gunfire exchanges are a frequent occurrence both in-
side favelas and out. Ten shoot-outs on the city’s highways
have occurred since the beginning of the year, and in early
June 2016, 25 armed gunmen stormed a city hospital in a
shootout with police, in an attempt to free a drug trafficker.
At the end of month, police raided a baile funk, killing six
people and wounding more than thirty. And so it goes on.
Tourists have been shot dead and robbed at gunpoint, and
young girls have been gang raped. The current bodies re-
sponsible for the public security management of the city do
not provide safety and freedom for the wide populations that
are gravely threatened by its deficiencies. Additionally, the
State security apparatus of pacification—that puts policing
at the center of social order—has deliberately and intention-
ally sacrificed the people living in favelas, and their basic
rights of citizenship, for the sake of Olympic development in
service of the production of markets [
]. Vera Telles as-
serts that the hostile, militarized management of cities such
as Rio uses security-driven logic to articulate strategies of
power and further the production of markets [
]. These
forms of violence and control inscribe themselves on the
Olympic City as fields of tension and conflict.
10. Discussion
Rio’s favela communities have continued to live under the
crushing weight of discriminatory policing for decades. Inter-
national watchdog advocates such as Amnesty International
and Human Rights Watch, continue to call for an end to
the violence and an investigation of Brazil’s policing and
criminal justice systems. Local organizations, such as the
e Popular Copa & Olimp
ıadas Rio have focused on
strategies that monitor and confront the exclusionary na-
ture of urban policy (and its impact) in relation to the city’s
mega sporting events—specifically the 2011 Military World
Games, the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup,
and the 2016 Olympics. These organizations, and the com-
munities they advocate for, demand meaningful oversight
and accountability of law enforcement policy and proce-
dures, and an end to the criminalization of communities of
people of color who are living in poverty. They also call for
government to invest in these communities by funding more
than military police offensives.
Media attention is momentarily focused on Rio for the
Games, but the anger and grief caused by the public killings
of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers
has yet to translate into policy reform. Elected state and
municipal leaders fail to acknowledge any role corruption
has played in the transformation of Rio into a mega-events
city, or how this has exasperated the already endemic prob-
lem of police brutality and the criminalization of the poor in
Rio’s favelas.
Corruption, particularly inside developing contexts, di-
verts resources away from poverty-alleviation efforts and
sustainable development. The average annual estimated
cost of corruption in Brazil is between 1.38% to 2.3% of the
country’s total GDP—as much as US$53 billion annually
]. In a situation where political corruption is as perva-
sive as this, it is difficult to propose effective ways in which
police corruption can be mitigated. The core of the problem
in Rio is that corruption permeates the political apparatus
almost everywhere. Policy instruments in stable contexts
can use public agency to improve conditions in the public
realm. However, in the case of Rio, and Brazil in general,
extensive corruption impedes any situation where regular
policy thinking can be applied. Corruption is a crime that
relies on the agencies of the police and the courts to rec-
tify. When these systems are corrupt to such an extent as
they are in Brazil, few in decision-making positions have
the interest or capability to intervene in them effectively. In
situations such as Rio, it is difficult to suggest concrete pol-
icy proposals, though some basic changes to legal tenants
may be proposed to ease some of the problems.
A relaxation of Shock Orders—the stringent crackdown
and regularization bureaucracy of illegal goods and/or ser-
vices, including housing—should be considered so that
informality is not stamped out just because it is informal.
The partial deregulation of informal systems has proven
to be helpful in reducing police corruption and stabilizing
informal communities [120,121].
Regarding drug trafficking, the US-led ‘war on drugs’
has created so many inter-country trafficking spillovers
that only international efforts may resolve the situation.
In Rio, this war is currently framed through pacification
policy. The results have been dismal. There has been
no reduction in violence and corruption as generated by
the drug industry, only a temporary relocation of traffickers
to unpacified areas when necessary. Ex-Brazilian Presi-
dent, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, recommends breaking
ties with this failed strategy—which relies on developing
countries engaging in urban warfare and on the ground
combat. Instead, it recommends re-focusing on efforts
that target consumption and the personal and social dam-
age caused by it, as well as policies that target organized
crime and corruption. It goes on to state that the “im-
posed harmful policies” of the war on drugs have had
dire consequences—corruption of the police forces and
judiciary and traffic-related violence” [122].
There is no large-scale production of drugs in Brazil
(with the exception of marijuana). What exists is the terri-
torial control of urban favelas by traffickers, who are sup-
plied with cocaine from neighboring countries, and who
distribute the majority of their supplies to a domestic mar-
ket, more so than transiting them out of the country. Given
the high rates of poverty and unemployment in favelas,
the traffickers easily form extensive networks of dealers,
distributors, and consumers. Rio’s large consumer market
is driven mostly by the middle- and upper-income classes.
According to Cardoso, “as long as demand and profitability
remain high, it will be difficult to withhold the attraction that
trafficking carries to a young mass of people, including
children, coming from the poorest populations. . . The po-
lice force, with some exceptions, is divided between those
who assent to traffickers and those who enter the favelas
to kill. To the mother of the often innocent victim, it makes
no difference if the ‘stray bullet’ left the gun of a criminal
or a policeman” [122].
Increasing levels of education has yielded positive re-
sults in regards to reducing both micro and macro levels of
corruption [
]. Increasing police wages may also prove
effective in reducing corruption levels on a micro-scale, how-
ever, literature on the subject is ambiguous at best [
The open extortion by Rio’s police is so visible and so perva-
sive that it should be possible to address directly. However,
because of a compliant judiciary system, and a fear of po-
lice reprisal, the public-at-large remain extremely vulnerable
to it. Incidents of extortion may be reduced by making ar-
rest, detainment, and judiciary processes more rigorous
and transparent. Granting stronger rights for suspects is
also a step toward police accountability.
The widespread use of mobile phones and social me-
dia outlets has increased the ability for the poor to expose
cases of police abuse, however, the use of social media
in Brazil’s current political climate itself carries the risk of
arrest, detainment and a prison sentence. Despite the risks,
social and independent media outlets remains one of the
primary ways of exposing corruption and misconduct [
]. In
addition, organizations such as AI continue to arm the public
with tools such as their Cross-fire app. They and other orga-
nizations such as Comit
e Popular, M
ıda Ninja, and Rio On
Watch, continue to apply pressure on members and repre-
sentatives of the Rio 2016 security commission, the military
police, and the government, to take specific responsibility
for security operations before and during the Olympics. AI,
specifically, has called for the Rio 2016 security commission
“to establish full accountability mechanisms for any human
rights violations committed by law enforcement officers; to
investigate and hold perpetrators to account; and to fully
support and provide reparations for victims and their fam-
ilies” [
]. However, without a complete overhaul of the
entire judiciary system, which currently fails to investigate
or hold police accountable in the face of overwhelming ev-
idence, few advances toward securing the right to life are
likely to be achieved.
The lack of provision of basic social services and the
generation of decent, living wage employment (and income)
prospects for people living in favelas also presents a barrier
to developing stability within these communities. Provi-
sion of social services and basic soft infrastructure is an
important component of an effective response to poverty.
Funding for the staffing and maintenance of social infras-
tructure facilities and their programming and services needs
to be consistent if any progress is to be achieved. Currently
services are often discontinued due to politically-motivated
policy changes and budget cuts [
]. The city’s persistent
failure to provide stable social infrastructure services in-
clude its revolving ‘community policing’ policies [
]. Time
and time again, these policies are abandoned, leaving res-
idents to cope with the fallout [
]. The state’s failure to
deliver basic soft infrastructure services, coupled with the
frequency of gross political and police misconduct, continue
to reinforce negative perceptions of Rio’s state interventions
in the minds of favela residents.
How public assets, especially favela territories and
the funds earmarked for providing infrastructure for them,
are currently being appropriated is another issue that
remains absent in political discourse. Until these poli-
cies are scrutinized in a public forum by inclusive means,
there will be no asset recovery, certainly none that bene-
fits Rio’s informal sectors. This is a particularly important
issue for fragile states such as Rio, where high-level
corruption has recklessly misused, mismanaged, and/or
misappropriated public funds, and where resources are
badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of
informal societal sectors.
Finally, corruption prevention measures must be directed
at both the public and private sectors. According to the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, preventive poli-
cies, such as the establishment of anticorruption bodies,
enhanced transparency in the financing of election cam-
paigns and political parties, and the safeguarding of public
services, should be subjected to codes of conduct, financial
and other disclosures, and appropriate disciplinary mea-
sures that promote transparency. Furthermore, accountabil-
ity in matters of public finance must be promoted by setting
up methods for preventing corruption in critical areas of the
public sector such as the judiciary and public procurement.
Further, it should include the involvement of third sector
and community-based organizations, and other civil society
watchdog and rights advocacy organizations [129].
11. Conclusion
The social fabric of public space is considered critical in
defining the right to the city [
]. Yet, the role that public
security in informal space plays in strengthening or under-
mining the socio-economic stability of cities such as Rio
is rarely valued. Instead, the public spaces of favelas are
perceived of as arenas for contestation where people’s
already marginalized citizenship freedoms—restricted by
poverty, ambiguous legal status, and systemic violence—
need be controlled through unmonitored militarized action
]. This lack of monitoring increases police violence,
corruption, economic exploitation of the citizens, and abuse
of the police’s role of protecting public space [120].
In Rio, government leaders operate inside a corrupt po-
litical economy in which pacification is only one component.
It is part of a broader condition that is commonly referred to
in Brazil as jeitinho—the way things are done for personal
gain at the expense of, and detriment to others [
]. It
is clear that the State needs to take steps to reduce the
violence the city of Rio de Janeiro has seen over the past
decades—some of the highest rates in the world. If Rio
had followed through on the vision it lays out in its munici-
pal master plan—one of sustainable development and the
fulfillment of the social function of the city and of urban
property [
]—pacification activities in favelas could have
theoretically made strides in social development through
participatory means. Unfortunately, gathering the political
will to deliver on such a promise, in a country that is institu-
tionally corrupt and relies on exerting lethal military force to
maintain control over its citizens, remains unlikely.
Police violence, misconduct and institutionalized cor-
ruption are not the same issues in the formal city of Rio
as they are in the favelas, where the separate public se-
curity policy of military pacification has far more lethal
consequences. The outcomes are unequal, unfair and
throw already stressed and socio-economically destabi-
lized households into deeper levels of poverty and vi-
olence. The pacification policy is also responsible for
the migration of crime, an increase in the rates of victim
crimes, and the proliferation of a culture of police corrup-
tion that can be linked to organized crime, an increase
in homicide rates, and the trafficking and consumption of
illegal drugs, all of which are typical of the outcomes seen
in other developing contexts [133].
The same bankrupt government agencies that have had
a powerful influence over the crafting and management of
Rio as an Olympic city are now looking at having to recon-
struct a collapsed state, floundering in financial calamity
and on the brink of a “total collapse in public security” [
The deteriorating situation caused by pacification has been
described as “critical” [
]. After the Olympics a bloodbath
is predicted as funds dry up even further, UPP units are
further disbanded, and turf wars over gang control resurface
as troops pull out.
Compounding the problem, Brazil as a nation has begun
engaging in sweeping austerity measures that are hitting
the country’s poorest the hardest. In the favelas, internal de
facto reconstruction may be the only way forward—where
informal local actors will produce change once pacification
dissolves. However, the prognosis is grim as the internal
return of favelas to the pseudo-sovereign state of gang
rule leaves residents with little democratic opportunity to
successfully, or peacefully, reconstruct their communities.
Some third sector and government bodies may be able
to marginally assist in post-pacification relief, but these orga-
nizations will be limited in terms of providing solutions. One
thing is for certain, a range of post-pacification challenges
are about to emerge in Rio’s favelas, and no one, least of
all the State, has a full understanding of their implications.
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advantage because of their avoidance of formal regulations, taxes,
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of the poor. The regular discontinuance of social programs and
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fragmentation and mismanagement of social policies at the local
scale. This is counterproductive to achieving any form of sustain-
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