Monday, December 6, 2010

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Last week, in a gesture reminiscent of the raising of the American flag over Mount Suribachi, the Brazilian forces of law and order signaled their victory over the drug lords by displaying a national flag on the heights above the Favela do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro.
More than forty tons of marijuana and three hundred kilograms of cocaine were confiscated in the operation.
Hundreds of weapons were apprehended.

Dozens of felons arrested.
The ramshackle shantytown now enjoys a degree of peace and tranquility that no resident under the age of ten has ever known.
To achieve the result, eight hundred members of the military joined with more than two-thousand cops, civil, military and federal to pull off the highly-successful operation. But, as always seems to be the case, there were a few rotten apples in the barrel.
Someone apparently tipped-off many of the gang leaders, who were caught on videotape by Brazil’s major television network as they escaped over a back road that bordered the favela.
Worse: Many residents fled during the operation and returned to find their homes broken into. Not by the bandits, but by the police.
Police corruption, as the above cartoon illustrates, is endemic. The cop is telling himself, you’re under arrest.
Indeed, the situation is so bad in some areas that it’s hard to distinguish between the cops and the criminals. In this one, the kid looks one way and says, “Look, Mom, a crook.” Then he looks the other way: “Look, Mom, a cop.” And when he bursts into tears: “Who can help us now?” 
Here are a few examples of the kind of stuff that took place in Rio during the sweep:
From longtime resident Daise dos Santos, the cops stole seven bottles of imported perfume. She’d planned to sell them to pay her credit card bill.
They nicked a forty-two inch TV, and two-hundred Reais in cash, from Carlos Lopes da Silva.
They swiped a television, a notebook computer and her daughter’s basketball uniform from Isabel dos Santos.
And the pastor, Ronai de Almeida Lima Braga Júnior, lost thirty-one thousand-five hundred Reais (about eighteen-thousand-seven hundred U.S. dollars) in church funds. The perpetrators in that case were apparently some civil cops. A neighbor reported them breaking-down the front door of Ronai’s home.
The military police has dispatched a mobile unit to the region, and residents have been invited to drop in and file complaints against the police.
A full and detailed investigation of each case has been promised.
Proof, of course, is hard to come by.
So the betting is that there won’t be many arrests.
Or that much of what has been stolen will ever be recovered.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Leighton, this staggers the imagination. Thanks for the update, scary though it may be.
    How do cops and crooks get away with that stuff since apparently it's all over the press, with photos worth a million words?

    Pat Browning

  2. Leighton--

    Cursed conditions for the residents of the favelas, blessed soil for the novelist. I don't know how it seems to the rest of you, but for me, on the personal and global level, the micro and the macro, so much of what's significant in life seems to be be framed as galling, fascinating contradiction.


  3. I was going to attempt a funny comment about the cop caricature, but saw the photo above it of the mother fleeing with her children. There is nothing humorous about this aspect of our world.

    Good work!

  4. The US Marines raised the flag at the highest point on Iwo Jima in 1945. There was little, if any, chance at this point in the war that the Japanese could be in a position to re-take the island.

    Unfortunately, that is likely not the case in the favelas. In that it took 800 military and more than 2000 cops from various law enforcement departments, how likely will it be that the favela remains clear of the dealers?

    I don't think it is possible for the average person to grasp the street value of 40 tons of marijuana and 300 kilograms of cocaine. How long is it going to remain untouched in the evidence lockers?

    Brazil isn't the only country where drugs and the money they represent is too big a temptation for those entrusted with protecting the community from the ravages caused by addiction and the willingness to do anything to get the money for the next dose.
    Prohibition was an unmitigated failure in the United States because people wanted alcohol. Prohibition created the mafia in the United States. It also made the Kennedy family very wealthy. The cost of whiskey can't be compared to the cost of cocaine but there was a considerable amount of bloodshed between the groups vying to control the market.

    How long can that mother protect her children from forces on both sides of the law when the line is erased?


  5. Oh, now you're just being juvenal :-)

  6. Tim,

    I was thinking about your pun this morning in the shower.
    And laughing out loud.

    Everybody Else,

    If you didn't get it, think juvenile=Juvenal and Google the headline of this post.