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News > Latin America

Brazil: Police in Rio Are Killing More People Than Ever as Lawmakers Turn A Blind Eye

  • Policemen take positions in a Rio de Janeiro favela.

    Policemen take positions in a Rio de Janeiro favela. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 June 2018

A total of 142 deaths were confirmed in the state of Rio de Janeiro in May compared to 97 during the same month last year.

The number of persons killed by police in the state of Rio de Janeiro increased by 46 percent in May 2018 when compared to May 2017. The increase, which was detailed in a study by Brazil's Institute of Public Safety, showed police killed 142 persons in May 2018 compared to 97 over the same period last year.

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Authorities classified all the deaths as being due to “resistance to authority” or “resistance to arrest” (auto de resistencia) by the victims.

The term, which is commonly used by police officers, implies a series of actions: the police killed someone who they describe as being a “bandido” or a thug; next, the police claim legitimate defense because the suspect was resisting arrest, the sole witnesses to the events are often the officers,  and if the case is officially registered as resisting arrest; an investigation into the death of the suspect is insignificant, and no police officer would be held responsible.

A commission of inquiry was established to do away with the classification of deaths being due to resisting arrest cases and a new law banning the practice was introduced in June 2016. The bill was, however, never approved by the country's lawmakers.

Douglas Belchior, a member of the Nucleus Union of Popular Education for Black People, said the state must recognize its role in maintaining a police force that guarantees the safety of the affluent and monied neighborhoods while systematically repressing, violating, raping, and killing “the population that's depicted by stereotypes as being marginalized and criminal.”

The number of massacres in Rio de Janeiro has doubled since the military intervention was launched on February 16, according to a report published in April by the Intervention Observatory at Candido Mendes University.

Titled – 'Aimlessly: No Program, No Results, No Direction' – the study also shows that, despite federal troops patrolling the streets of Rio, the number of shootouts has also significantly increased.

Meanwhile, a new study conducted by the Institute of Applied Economic Research and Brazilian Forum of Public Safety indicated that half of all the homicides in the country occur in just 2.2 percent of the total number of cities.

The city of Quiemados in the state of Rio de Janeiro was ranked number one on the list with 134.9 homicides per 100,000 residents.

With four cities in the northeastern state of Bahia: Eunapolis (123.3 homicides per 100,000 residents), Simoes Filho (107.7 homicides per 100,000 residents), Porto Seguro (101.7 homicides per 100,000 residents) and Lauro de Freitas (99.2 homicides per 100,000 residents) all registering high murders per capita.

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