Rising Violence Across Brazil Hits North Especially Hard

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New figures show that violence is rising across Brazil. But the country’s deteriorating security situation has hit the north particularly hard, providing a snapshot of factors driving high murder rates in the country.

Brazil witnessed a 6.8 percent increase in its national homicide rate in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period last year, Estadão reported on August 21. The country recorded more than 28,000 murders in the first half of the year — an average of more than 150 each day.

Brazil’s second-largest city, Rio de Janeiro, has garnered significant media attention in recent months due to growing insecurity there.

Indeed, the figures published by Estadão show Rio saw a 14 percent increase in its homicide rate since last year. And this year has also seen record-breaking incidents of theft of both people and cargo, according to information shared with InSight Crime by Amarante International, a private security and risk analysis company. The firm also notes that budget crises in both the state and the city of Rio de Janeiro have contributed to cuts in police presence.

However, data from Estadão shows that Brazil’s northeastern states have suffered even greater increases in homicides. Pernambuco, Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte respectively witnessed a 38 percent, 32 percent and 26 percent rise in murders compared to last year. Experts cited by the Brazilian news outlet pointed to cuts in socioeconomic development programs, driven by the country’s broader economic slowdown, as well as an intensification of drug-related violence to explain the rise.

InSight Crime Analysis

The geographic breakdown of trends in violence in Brazil provided by Estadão highlights how criminal dynamics are an important factor driving homicides in the country.

It comes as little surprise that northern states have seen higher increases in violence than their southern neighbors. A broken truce between the country’s two most powerful gangs, the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) and the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), led to a war that saw a wave of prison violence rock northern states like Rio Grande do Norte earlier this year. Competition over lucrative drug trafficking routes that run through Brazil’s largely rural north may be another factor behind the violence.

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And in Rio, a flawed security policy — illustrated by a growing number of killings by security forces as well as killings of security forces — has provided fertile ground for new and deadly turf wars between the many powerful gangs operating in the Rio de Janeiro, according to Amarante International.

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