Yuletide thoughts from Rio’s Public Safety Secretary

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Rio-based blogger and journalist Julia Michaels parcels out the gems from two recent interviews of Rio State’s Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame. The official’s message concerning the state’s vaunted pacification program: this is only the beginning.

In the era of hyperinflation, in the eighties, most businesses made money not from what they’d set out to do, but in the financial market. The so-called “overnight” investment market, that lasted night upon night, was more lucrative than the production of goods and services.

Similarly, here in Rio we got used to distorted behavior and values, during the long sleepless night of violence of the last few decades. Cops were murderers. Drug traffickers were judges. And so on. We all colluded, until the profits turned to a loss to big to sustain.

In the main article on Globo’s opinion page on December 26, State Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame makes an enlightening comparison between the pacification program he manages, and the 1994 Real Plan that stabilized Brazil’s currency. The title is “Just the first step”, something he says almost every day.

“Just as the URV prepared the way for the arrival of the real in the economic stabilization program, the UPPs are an instrument of transition from the yoke of violence to a regime of citizenship, where the state returns with essential services such as health, education, water, sanitation, trash collection and public lighting,” he explains.

Beltrame always points out that social services are crucial. “With the arrival of the Pacification Police, with men and women trained not only to face violence — but also, and especially, to speak with and negotiate with the community — public agencies now find the doors of these communities open to receive the services they’ve been demanding for decades.”

While social services try to transform themselves to better serve communities that were until recently excluded, Beltrame undertakes the transformation of Rio’s police forces. The O Dia newspaper published a long interview with the secretary Dec. 24, headlining the news that in 2012 pacification is coming to the favelas of Manguinhos, Jacarezinho and Maré.

But the interview contains another big piece of news. Beltrame has tried to combat police corruption by investigating personal fortunes. He came up against a legal obstacle, since the courts require case-by-case justification for access to such information.

Now, says Beltrame, ‘”We are going to be using, after the Fallet/Fogueteiro case (wherein drug traffickers were paying UPP police a monthly stipend), a legally acceptable mechanism. The state attorney general’s office, and the internal affairs units are almost finished drafting a decree allowing preliminary checking, an instrument that will allow us to discover possible malfeasance. In theory we’ll be able to see a police officer’s disproportional personal fortune. I wanted to have this done by the end of this year, but the attorney general’s office is finishing the decree, that the governor will sign.”‘

Police misconduct is common inRio de Janeiro, and much remains to be done for favelas to have the same degree of attention from city services as in the formal areas of the city. As our overlong “overnight” dissipates and we transition to the “new reality of economic and social development in the city of Rio de Janeiron”, now is an excellent moment to do a little of our own holiday reflection.

How did we allow favelas to exist?

Reprinted with permission from Julia Michaels, a reporter who has lived in Rio almost 30 years. See her blog, Rio Real, which is in English and Portuguese, and read the original post here.

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