Monday, April 28, 2008

Rio Police Still Killing Innocents in Their So-Called War on "Traficantes"

This weekend, police in Rio once again went into a favela (City of God, this time) to root out druglords, killing 11 "traficantes." And once again, their claims are highly suspicious:

Police combed the alleyways of a Rio de Janeiro slum on Saturday in search of an
alleged gang leader who escaped a raid that killed 11 people, including a
70-year-old woman.[...] Police said 10 of those killed on Friday were alleged drug gang members. Seventy-year-old bystander Jocelia Afonso was killed by a stray bullet, and two other elderly residents were wounded in the crossfire, Freitas said.
While they claim 10 traficantes and an elderly woman, I just find it hard to believe that, in all the shooting, only one of the 11 was involved in the drug-trade, especially given 2 other wounded. I've commented on this more times than I can remember, but until society and the media start legitimately asking hard questions of those killed, viewing the police less as heroes, and ditching their stupid class-based and racial prejudices some, there will unfortunately continue to be innocent civilians, from children to the elderly, killed in Rio's favelas, and urban human rights violations in Brazil will continue unabated.

...[Update] And Randy's right - it isn't just Rio that has this problem - it hits Sao Paulo, Bahia, and other major cities, like Recife:
This seaside city, a favourite of European tourists, gets much more attention
for the shark attacks that have killed 18 people since 1992 than for its human
killings - at least 2,617 in the metropolitan area last year. While tourists are
warned not to take valuables to the beaches, as in most Brazilian cities, little
is said about the murder rate mostly because the violence largely stays in the
poor areas.
While Rio de Janeiro's bloody drug war makes international
headlines, this balmy city of 1.5 million has a homicide rate of 90.9 per
100,000 - more than twice as deadly as Rio, according to the Latin American
Technological Network's Map of Violence.
I agree with Randy's assessment, too. This is a nationwide problem, and until governors and presidents (past, present, and future) start taking aggressive, active measures to punish police who indiscriminately kill the poor in the name of the "war on drugs," things won't get any better. And unfortunately, I just don't see that happening anytime in the next several years.