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Cablegate: Rio de Janeiro's "Operation Two Faces" Results in Major

VZCZCXRO0653
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHRI #0541 2611458
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181458Z SEP 07
FM AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4147
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0529
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 5045
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3333

UNCLAS RIO DE JANEIRO 000541

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI BR
SUBJECT: RIO DE JANEIRO'S "OPERATION TWO FACES" RESULTS IN MAJOR
ARRESTS OF CORREUPT MILITARY POLICE


1. (U) Summary. Rio de Janeiro state officials announced a major
sting operation which resulted in the arrests of 52 Military Police
officers from a single police battalion yesterday. The officers are
accused of involvement in a police corruption ring whereby they were
on the payroll of drug traffickers. The arrests are part of
"Operagao Duas Caras" (Operation Two Faces), and the end result of a
7-month long investigation into this particular battalion. This is
Rio's largest arrest of police officers from within the same
battalion to date, according to Military Police officials. More
arrests are expected to follow as further evidence is collected.
End Summary.

Operation Two Faces
-------------------

2. (U) Fifty-two Military Police (PM) officers from Rio de Janeiro's
15th Battalion, nearly 10% of the battalion's total police force,
were arrested yesterday and charged with taking bribes from drug
traffickers in exchange for providing police protection and avoiding
police operations in certain areas. The officers allegedly accepted
weekly bribes of as high as US$2,000 from the drug trafficking gang
of "Parada Anglica" which controls the Imbari area of Caxias.

3. (U) Rio de Janeiro State Secretary for Public Security Jos
Mariano Beltrame stated that the large-scale arrest will undoubtedly
have a negative impact on the level of policing in the area of
Caxias where the 15th Battalion is based. However, he pledged his
continued commitment to rooting out police corruption in Rio - both
among the Military Police and the Civil Police forces, which share
responsibility for law enforcement in the state. Rio de Janeiro
Governor Sergio Cabral commented on the operation from his travels
in Rome, stating that his government would no longer tolerate police
corruption.

4. (U) This not the first time that the Military Police 15th
Battalion has come under fire. In March 2005, in response to a
top-down effort to clean up its ranks, officers decapitated a person
and threw the head into the battalion headquarters as a warning.
The next day, 11 Military Police officers from the 15th Battalion
terrorized the inhabitants of that area killing 29 innocent people,
in what is considered the largest massacre in Rio de Janeiro
history.

Institutional Rivalry Among Rio's Police Forces
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (U) In Brazil, public security falls under the responsibility of
the state government. The two branches of state police are the
Civil Police and the Military Police. Rio's Civil Police has a
squad of 9,000 and is primarily involved with post-crime procedures
such as investigating crimes and gathering evidence for prosecution.
Rio's Military Police (a civilian force which follows a military
command structure) currently has around 38,000 active officers,
divided up among 40 battalions across the state to maintain order on
the streets and conduct law enforcement operations.

6. (U) These recent arrests are sure to ignite institutional
tensions between the two state police forces, which have a long
historical rivalry, especially since this operation was the result
of a Civil Police investigation. Police corruption among both
forces is a problem, however, although Operation Two Faces has so
far been focused exclusively on corruption within the Military
Police. An emergency meeting between the two force commanders to
diffuse tensions, convened by the State Secretariat for Public
Security, is expected later in the week.

7. (U) Comment. Police corruption has been a long-standing problem
in Rio de Janeiro. From the relatively low-wages that Rio police
officers earn (the second lowest in all Brazilian states) to the
high level of danger they face on a daily basis (arguably, the most
violent work conditions), Rio police are relatively easy targets for
drug traffickers' influence. Many police officers supplement their
meager incomes by working with Rio's drug traffickers -- supplying
contraband weapons, running drugs themselves, or providing
protection. Several previous government administrations have
attempted to tackle Rio's police corruption, but the underlying
problem of officers being paid too little to tackle too big and
dangerous an enemy remains. According to government statistics, 553
Military Police officers have been expelled since 2005 - leaving Rio
with a diminished police force to confront a growing public security
problem. In the run up to the July 2007 Pan Am Games, media-savvy
Governor Cabral made public security one of his top priorities and
was successful in obtaining federal troop support to augment the
state's forces. Now that the media spotlight associated with the
Games has faded, we will see how seriously Cabral tackles the
underlying problems such as police corruption which continue to
challenge the state. End Comment.

8. (U) This message was cleared/coordinated with Embassy Brasilia.

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