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Cablegate: Rio de Janeiro Sets Up Municipal Election Task Force To

VZCZCXRO7779
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHRI #0215 2241114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111114Z AUG 08
FM AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4580
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0919
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 5172
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 3443

UNCLAS RIO DE JANEIRO 000215

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM PGOV SOCI BR
SUBJECT: Rio de Janeiro Sets Up Municipal Election Task Force to
Counter Voter Intimidation in Slums

1. Summary. In advance of the October municipal elections, a new
trend has emerged involving the use of intimidation to organize and
deliver massive voter blocks from favela communities to candidates
willing to align themselves with drug traffickers and militias. The
Brazilian Federal Police, together with the Rio state government,
has set up an election task force to monitor the situation more
closely. End Summary.

2. The Brazilian Federal Police are investigating widespread
reports that drug traffickers and militias (off-duty law enforcement
officers turned community mob bosses) in the state of Rio de Janeiro
are intimidating members of the communities they control to sell
large voting blocks to candidates for the October municipal
elections. Under Brazilian law, this practice is considered
illegal. However, the practice of voter intimidation is nothing new
in Rio, according to political scientist Jairo Nicolau.

3. Nicolau, a Professor at the University Research Institute
(IUPERJ), told the Consulate that voter intimidation has been
widespread in Brazil, but on a small scale. In previous campaigns,
candidates have been previously prohibited from entering favelas as
part of their campaigns for that very reason. The new trend, says
Nicolau, is that drug traffickers and militias are taking a much
more active role to organize and sell "blocks" of voters - basically
conducting a public auction for their support, or in some cases
launching their own candidates for lower level offices such as city
council.

3. In large favela communities, drug traffickers and/or militias
act as a parallel government. They control access into the favelas
and dictate the activities that go on within them. On July 26, for
example, drug traffickers allowed mayoral candidate Marcelo Crivella
to enter their community for a campaign event. However, they did
not allow the accompanying press to photograph or film the event.
This episode of press censorship is considered by many observers as
evidence of a deteriorating democratic process in Rio. On other
occasions, various mayoral candidates have complained that drug
traffickers and militias are denying their entry into communities
thereby limiting their ability to interact with voters.

4. On July 29, Rio de Janeiro created a joint task force to
guarantee public safety and electoral integrity during the October's
municipal elections. Approved by President of the Regional
Electoral Court (TRE) Roberto Wider, Rio State Secretary for Public
Security Jose Beltrame and Federal Police Chief Jacinto Caetano, the
task force involves the Civil, Military and Federal Police. Rio
Governor Sergio Cabral lauded the task force as a successful
partnership between the state and federal governments. He further
admitted that the situation in Rio de Janeiro may require that the
task force remain in place after the municipal elections.

5. Comment. Favela communities could account for more than
one-quarter of the voting public in Rio's municipal elections. As
such, candidates, drug dealers and militias all know that support
from these communities is valuable. It remains to be seen how
effective the new electoral task force will be, or if organized
voter intimidation spreads to other areas of Brazil where there are
large, concentrated communities of the urban poor. End comment.

Martinez

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