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Cablegate: Public Security in Sao Paulo: Human Rights Activists

VZCZCXRO2211
PP RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0873/01 3021650
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291650Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7622
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8736
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3145
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2909
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2470
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 3528
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0578
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2172
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3850
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 8406
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAWJC/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SAO PAULO 000873

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/PDA, DRL, AND INL
STATE ALSO FOR DS/IP/WHA, DS/ICI/PII, DS/DSS/OSAC
NSC FOR TOMASULO
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID FOR LAC/AA

TAGS: PHUM KCRM PGOV ASEC BR
SUBJECT: PUBLIC SECURITY IN SAO PAULO: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT

REF: (A) 06 SAO PAULO 751; (B) 06 SAO PAULO 551 AND PREVIOUS (C) 06
SAO PAULO 708; (D) SAO PAULO 0447;(E) RECIFE 87

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Although public security remains one of the most serious
policy challenges in Brazil, civil society researchers and law
enforcement analysts in Sao Paulo believe that the federal and state
governments are taking inadequate action to tackle the issue or to
coordinate with each other in fighting crime. These concerns -
together with police corruption, a lack of teamwork among law
enforcement agencies, dismal prison conditions, and the public's
failure to demand change - all contribute to a troubled situation in
Sao Paulo State that may be getting worse. This cable is one in an
occasional series of reports by Mission Brazil on public security
issues. End Summary.

Challenges Confronting Law Enforcement
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Poloff met recently with NGO representatives and policy
experts to discuss the huge challenge the Sao Paulo State Government
faces in battling crime and violence. State Secretariat for Public
Security (SESP) Analysis and Planning Coordinator Tulio Kahn stated
that the rapid growth of Brazilian cities has led to serious crime
increases and that in order to keep up with the increasing number of
people behind bars, the government would have to build a new prison
every month. (Note: According to press reports, the Sao Paulo
prison system is 42,000 inmates over capacity and needs to build 60
new facilities, each with a capacity of 700 prisoners, to
accommodate those presently in jails. End Note.)

3. (SBU) Overcrowding, combined with generally poor prison
conditions (ref A), has created new problems, including facilitating
the rise of large criminal networks such as the First Capital
Command (PCC). While PCC income originally came from illegal
activities conducted within the prisons, the gang is now focusing
its efforts on the drug trade on the outside, therefore expanding
its reach, Kahn said.

4. (SBU) Eloisa Machado, Program Coordinator for the human rights
NGO "Conectas," cited a host of reasons for why public security
problems persist: police violence; a broken adult prison system
plagued by overcrowding, lack of hygiene, and staff abuse; lack of
legal protection for victims; too few judges; and no history of
providing assistance or support to inmates. She charged that the
state government purposely "criminalizes" civil society, accusing
human rights NGOs such as her own that defend the innocent of
instigating violence and inspiring criminal organizations.

5. (SBU) Pro Bono Institute Director Marcos Fuchs, whose NGO
researches police abuse and defends some crime victims, said public
security is difficult to tackle in part because state and federal
entities refuse to cooperate. The Justice Ministry either does not
have complete data on crime or lacks an integrated statistical
database, making it difficult to quantify the problem or to follow
trends. Law enforcement entities do not see the purpose in working
with their counterparts in other states and do not want to share
information, he added. Fuchs believes security agencies lack a
teamwork culture and fear that shared information will be leaked to
the media and make them look ineffective. To make matters worse,
corruption is endemic in the law enforcement field and negatively
affects all aspects of the criminal justice system. From Fuchs's
perspective, the state, by paying a police officer a minimal salary
to work with no support, may as well be asking the officer to accept
bribes.

6. (SBU) Sou da Paz ("I am for Peace") Institute Policy Coordinator

SAO PAULO 00000873 002 OF 004


Daniel Mack noted that civil society has stepped in as government
vacillates on taking action to combat crime. According to Mack,
organizations such as Sou da Paz, an NGO that focuses primarily on
reducing violence through educational and public policy programs,
have come to the realization that urban violence does not just
derive from poverty or social inequality. Mack blames much of
criminal warfare on the widespread availability of guns, a perceived
need to carry firearms and the belief among youth that violence is a
practical method for settling disputes. Police brutality and the
dismal state of the prison system, which turns petty lawbreakers
into hardened criminals, only exacerbate this desperate situation,
he added.

Sao Paulo State - Avoiding the Issue?
-------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Professor Paulo Mesquita Neto, a researcher at the
University of Sao Paulo's Center for the Study of Violence
(USP-NEV), explained that neither the state nor federal police have
taken any concrete steps to deal with the long-term problems that
led to the May 2006 PCC uprising (ref B). Mesquita pointed to the
presence of Brazil's National Public Security Force (NPSF, a
contingent composed of military police drawn from all the states) in
Rio de Janeiro during the July 2007 Pan-American Games as proof that
a federal presence is a more effective deterrent against crime. Sao
Paulo Governor Claudio Lembo declined President Lula's offer in May
and again in August of federal troops (these would have meant
soldiers from the Brazilian armed forces or members of the NPSF)
after the PCC violence, and his successor, Jose Serra, has also
stated that Sao Paulo prefers to deal with the problem itself.
Mesquita believes federal forces could deliver concrete results but
that state officials think criminal gangs no longer pose a major
concern, or, at the very least, they do not want to admit publicly
that they cannot handle the problem. According to Mesquita,
Governor Serra's administration has chosen not to concentrate on
public security in order to avoid having the media highlight ongoing
problems. The government, he claims, has not initiated any plans
for major reform of the prison system or state police, nor developed
a strategy to reduce violence or crime.

8. (SBU) Sou da Paz Coordinator Mack noted that the state's
response to crime often leads to a ballooning effect. He pointed to
the police response to the 2006 PCC wave of violence as a classic
example of disproportionate law enforcement reaction that fuels
further crime. The military police, he claims, went on a rampage
and murdered innocent bystanders based on sketchy evidence that they
were members of or linked to the PCC (ref C). Pro Bono Institute's
Fuchs made similar charges. Mack said that instead of using media
reports of police brutality as an opportunity to implement changes
in security forces and the prison system, the government remained
paralyzed or took an "ostrich" approach to the problem. Mack
recognized, however, that reforms would be both politically and
financially painful and that an attempt at "cleaning up" would
expose more abuses.

9. (SBU) Conectas Coordinator Machado alleged that it is very
probable that police officers, some state judges and senior-level
officials at SESP were involved in the excessive response to the PCC
episode or at least had prior knowledge of it. Agreeing with
Machado, Fuchs of the Pro Bono Institute charged that even former
Governor Geraldo Alckmin knew of an agreement between the state and
the gang, in which the PCC regularly paid off state officials to
keep police actions limited to a certain number. When the PCC did
not pay or possibly paid late, these state officials ordered the
police to go on a killing rampage, Fuchs said. (Note: This is but
one of many conspiracy theories making the rounds about the May 2006
PCC uprising and the police response, and the smaller incidents in
July and August. There is no reliable supporting evidence for any
of them, but few "Paulistas" or Brazilians are willing to discard
them. End Note.)


SAO PAULO 00000873 003 OF 004


10. (SBU) In a recent conversation (septel) with the Consul
General, Sao Paulo Assistant Mayor (and long-time Serra ally and
advisor) Andrea Matarazzo strongly defended the state government's
efforts to combat organized crime and violence. He claimed that
previous Governors had lost control of the military and civil police
and that Serra and his security team were wresting it back. He also
cited successes in keeping incarcerated PCC leaders and members from
communicating via cell phone, and pointed out that there have been
no new episodes of PCC violence in over a year.

Public Views on Crime and Police Reform
---------------------------------------

11. (SBU) An additional problem with public security reform is the
public's failure to demand that authorities address the issue, said
Mack of Sou da Paz. Of particular importance is judicial reform,
which is a critical need because judges often protect corrupt police
officers. According to SESP Coordinator Kahn, public security
remains much more a state and local election issue than a matter for
national campaigns. Political consultant Rogerio Schmitt of
Brazil's most prominent polling firm, Tendencias, said crime is one
of the top three concerns for Brazilians based on public opinion
polls but has not become a national election issue. He speculated
that presidential aspirants do not focus on crime because they do
not want to appear "too tough" or right-wing and therefore
reminiscent of Brazil's past military dictators. Other commentators
echoed the view that - with a few notable exceptions - most
Brazilian politicians tend to avoid "politically incorrect"
utterances and stances that might leave them vulnerable to charges
of being rightist or even fascist.

12. (SBU) Sou da Paz's Mack further stated that Brazilians simply
do not care enough about what is happening in their prisons.
Brazilians also generally believe that defending human rights in the
context of violence and police corruption actually leads to the
defense of criminals. He said that media are increasing their
coverage of abuses and NGOs are raising the profile of the issues
but that only now is public awareness of the subject coming to
light. With respect to the 2006 PCC uprising, Conectas Coordinator
Machado pointed out that the public actually supported the police's
violent retaliation against the gang.

Comment
-------

13. (SBU) Conspiracy theories surrounding the May 2006 wave of
violence and its aftermath abound, and it is difficult to know what
degree of credence to give any of them. In our view, the PCC was
clearly the aggressor, though the police response, while accepted
and in some cases applauded by the public, raised serious human
rights concerns. The manner in which the PCC attacks on police
suddenly ceased led to widespread speculation that state authorities
and gang leaders had made a deal, something then-Governor Lembo and
senior members of his administration vigorously denied.

14. (SBU) Post maintains an ongoing dialogue with SESP and other
government entities (ref D) on the state's public security
priorities and initiatives and areas where the USG might be able to
provide assistance or support. Unlike Mesquita, we believe the Sao
Paulo State Government is making an honest effort to combat
organized crime, though it certainly needs to do much more. The
fact that the PCC has been largely quiescent for more than a year
may or may not be considered an indicator of success, since many
observers believe another outburst of gang violence is only a matter
of time. The issue of using soldiers in a law enforcement context,
as advocated by Professor Mesquita, is extremely sensitive in
Brazil, in part because of the country's experience with a military
dictatorship. Both former Governor Lembo and Governor Serra, as
opposition politicians, would be hard-pressed under any
circumstances to accept any federal assistance, as it would be
widely viewed as an admission of their own administrations'

SAO PAULO 00000873 004 OF 004


inadequacies. Deploying the military in any state would also raise
serious questions about federalism, particularly since many state
officials reflexively resist federal intervention. In addition,
coordination between federal troops and state military and civil
police would present operational challenges.

15. (SBU) While both the federal and state governments need to take
a more active role in tackling public security, one of the major
challenges related to this issue is the lack of interest on the
public's part to pursue change in the law enforcement area.
Particularly heinous and despicable crimes generate outrage and
calls for action, but attention spans are short. Until crime and
violence become a topic that mobilizes Brazilian society as a whole,
police corruption, deplorable prison conditions and other problems
that contribute to the violence will remain. With the release of
the widely popular movie, Tropa de Elite (ref E), which focuses on
crime and police violence in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, public
security has emerged as a topic of debate once again. The real
challenge will be to keep the issue in the public eye and take
action on issues the film highlighted. End Comment.

16. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Brasilia.

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