Over the last four years, more people have been murdered in Brazil than in war-torn Syria while police killed more than 3,300 people in 2015, according to figures released by a Brazilian NGO on Friday.
Overall the homicide rate in South America’s biggest country was seen to drop to around 58,000 in 2015, 1.2 percent less than 2014, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Security. In comparison, around 55,000 people were killed in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Brazil of course has a much larger population of just over 200 million, compared to Syria’s 22 million people, although many believe it to be much less, given millions of internally displaced who have fled the fighting.
The homicide rate in Brazil from 2015 was 28.6 per 100,000 citizens, considered to be above the United Nations level for chronic violence. Homicide rates in parts of the country’s northeast were seen to be around double the national average.
The 3,345 police killings in Brazil from 2015 equated to around nine people being killed per day, up 6.3 percent from the previous year. Close to 400 officers were killed in 2015, but only one-third were serving on duty when they were killed.
Almost half of those killed at the hands of law enforcement were in the country’s two most populous states: Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
“Our police fatality rate is higher than that of Honduras, which is considered the most violent country (in proportional terms), in the world,” Renato Sérgio de Lima, CEO of the Forum, told local media.
In recent years, Brazilian authorities attempted to clear out violent areas for international events such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and this year’s Olympic games. In Rio de Janeiro, law enforcement carried out the “pacification” of Rio’s infamous favela neighborhoods. While visiting media, athletes and tourists were kept safe during the events, but Brazil’s poorer communities did not have it so lucky.
While initially “pacification” was able to lower crime in some locations, it forced thousands from their homes. However, as the economic crisis worsened in Brazil along with the constant problem of corruption, police and municipalities are now faced with a number of budget cuts.
Jose Mariano Beltrame, who was the main force behind the “pacification” policy, resigned as Rio’s state security chief earlier in October following a shooting between police and drug dealers, where at least three were killed and five wounded.
Rio police have a notorious history of brutality in poor communities and racist policing that targets black communities, where young black men are the majority of victims.
“Police kill a lot, as if they have been given the right to decide who dies and who lives,” said Samira Bueno, the forum’s executive director, adding that “the Brazilian government encourages the excessive use of lethal force.”
The Brazilian Forum on Public Security claim that the country is not taking the issue seriously enough. President Michel Temer, whose government has imposed a number of harsh austerity measures, called a meeting with a number of officials to discuss the rising insecurity in the country.