The state of Rio de Janeiro counted 4,572 homicides by the end of November 2016. Rio’s homicide rate went up 19.7 percent from 2015. This significant increase occurred despite Rio’s tightened security with 85,000 additional officers for the Olympics.
Meanwhile, São Paulo registered 3,313 homicides, down over 8 percent from 2015 and the lowest figure in 15 years.
Both states and their capitals are Brazil’s principal financial centers. They are also the headquarters of Latin America’s most powerful drug gangs. Experts attribute São Paulo’s relative security to the domination of one reigning gang, Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC). It’s common knowledge that the PCC closed a deal with São Paulo’s government back in 2006, after the gang administered a series of public terrorist attacks. Rio, on the other hand, experiences gang wars between
Rio, on the other hand, experiences ongoing territory wars between different crime factions. In addition to São Paulo-based PCC, Rio’s top local gangs include the Comando Vermelho (CV) and Terceiro Comando Puro (TCP).
São Paulo vs. Rio gangs
To make matters worse, the PCC broke its decades-long truce with CV last year. The renewed rivalry became official this October with a series of prison massacres in which over 21 members died. The PCC has since opened negotiations to establish a drug and arms monopoly with other crime factions in Rio’s largest and most coveted favela, Rocinha.
The PCC attracts members of other crime factions with greater security, following a more business-focused strategy for criminal dominance rather than pure violence, the CV’s preferred war plan. The São Paulo faction also offers legal assistance, medical and funerial insurance, and improved prison conditions in return for gang loyalty, a monthly contribution of 400 BRL, and abstinence from crack use.
Brazil, a country at war with itself
Brazil’s Public Security Forum reports that more homicides occurred in Brazil between the years of 2011 to 2015 than in the Syrian Civil War during the same period. Indeed, over the 5 year period, Brazil registered 278,839 violent deaths and Syria, 256,124.
Brazil can’t blame all of its homicides on criminal factions. In certain cases, such as in São Paulo’s favelas, the reigning gang actually helps to install a sense of security and justice, however parallel.
In fact, the police themselves were responsible for a rate of 9 homicides per day in 2015. The Brazilian police killed a total of 3,345 people, up 6.3 percent from the previous year. Rio de Janeiro held the second highest rate of police killings, just after the northeastern state of Amapá. According to the 10th Annual Brazilian Security Report, Rio’s police killed 3.9 in every 100,000 residents. 45 percent of all police murders occurred in either Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
On the flip side, the total of Rio’s military police deaths this year also increased from previous numbers. As of November 2016, the state’s military police reported 27 active police deaths. In the full 12 months of 2015, the Public Security Institute reported a total of 23 military police deaths.
Ending 2016 on a Violent Note
In this last week of 2016, major murder cases have come up in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
In São Paulo, a food vendor was beaten to death at the entrance of a downtown metro station Sunday night. The vendor became the attackers’ target after he tried to defend two transvestite and gay homeless people, who both escaped. A security camera caught the violent murder on tape. On Tuesday, Rio police found the abandoned remains of a pregnant woman and her unborn child, murdered by a couple who desperately wanted the child for themselves but failed to induce the woman’s labor.
Finally, the Rio police and firefighters unit released an open letter on Wednesday calling on state politicians to cancel the city’s New Year’s festivities. The letter, representing 200 security officials, expressed concerns over potential protests and violent conflict with party-goers.