Cablegate: Brazil: Is the Military the Solution to the Crime

DE RUEHBR #0993/01 2032012
R 212012Z JUL 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Public concern in Brazil over steadily
rising crime and a murder rate more than four times that in
the United States has re-fueled a two-decade old debate over
the question of deploying the military to undertake urban
crime fighting missions. Enthusiasm for this idea increased
in the aftermath of the Pan Am games, when the military
carried out a support role in providing security and helped
prevent any incidents from marring the games. Defense
Minister Jobim, while not voicing outright support for the
idea, has declined to rule it out. Various polls have
consistently shown public support it. In mid-June, however,
11 soldiers from an Army unit deployed to a Rio slum as
security for a social project handed three youths over to
drug traffickers, who subsequently killed them. The incident
has brought the debate over the military's proper internal
role to the front pages of newspapers throughout the country.
Despite a lower court ruling ordering the Army to withdraw
from the "favela", Minister Jobim continues to argue that the
Army was deployed legally and should not withdraw. The
debate over whether to deploy the military to take on crime
in urban areas, which is already taking place in an ad-hoc
fashion, will not be fully resolved until Congress addresses
the matter legislatively. Until then, the executive is
likely to see internal military deployments as a tool too
tempting and politically useful to forgo during public
security crises. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Society at the Breaking Point, Something Must be Done
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (U) President Lula took office during a record year for
homicides, with some 51,000 recorded throughout Brazil in
2003. Since then, the country has seen an eight percent
reduction in homicides to about 46,600 in 2006, with drops of
about 5.1 percent in 2004, 1.6 percent in 2005, and 1.9
percent in 2006. Nevertheless, the murder rate in Brazil is
still on the order of 25 per 100,000 people, over four times
the murder rate in the United States (according to the FBI's
annual Crime in the United States report, the U.S. rate stood
at 5.7 per 100,000 in 2006). Newspapers earlier this year
trumpeted the headline that total homicides during the last
30 years are approaching the staggering figure of 1 million
(in the 27 years from 1979 through the last year of released
official data, the figure stood at approximately 900,000,
compared with a little over 500,000 for the U.S. in the same
time period). Of these murders, almost half occurred in the
ten-year period between 1997 and 2006 (compared to 165,000 in
the United States). Since 1991, homicide trends in Brazil
and the U.S. have taken opposite courses: through 2006 the
U.S. homicide rate had dropped 31 percent, while Brazil's
rate increased 51 percent.

3. (U) Despite the drop in the absolute number of homicides
during the first three years of the Lula administration, the
number of homicides in most areas of the country remained
flat or increased. That is because most of the drop is
attributable to a reduction in homicides in Sao Paulo, which
alone is responsible for 70 percent of the drop in the
homicide rate for Brazil since 2003. Its homicide rate has
fallen 54 percent during that time, from 5,591 total murders
in 2003 to 2,546 in 2006, placing its homicide rate of 31 per
100,000 people lowest among Brazil's 13 cities of more than
one million inhabitants. Major-city murder capital Recife
(90.5), Belo Horizonte (56.6) Rio de Janeiro (44.8), Curitiba
(44.7) and even Brasilia's metropolitan area (33.3) rank
higher (according to the FBI the three U.S. cities with the
highest homicide rates are Detroit (47), Baltimore (43), and
New Orleans (37)). (Note: Violent crime statistics are
collected by state governments, which have unreliable systems
for data collection and in many instances do not keep track
of some forms of violent crime or do not report these to the
central government. As a result, they are often difficult or
impossible to find, and where they exist, they are less

BRASILIA 00000993 002 OF 004

reliable than U.S. statistics. End note.)

Time for the Military to Step In?

4. (U) As a result of these flat or increasing rates of
homicides in most parts of the country, not to mention the
constant barrage of TV and newspaper headlines blaring news
of often shocking and brutal criminal acts, fears of violent
crime remains consistently top the list of concerns for most
Brazilians. In addition, many Brazilians believe that the
Military Police (regular uniformed police of each state with
a "military" rank structure) is corrupt and lacks the
firepower to take on organized crime networks and
drug-trafficking gangs. This is reflected in polling that
shows widespread and steady support for an increased role by
Brazil's armed forces in providing public security.
According to a 2005 survey the daily newspaper O Globo, 90
percent of the public favored a military role; in a 2007
survey reported weekly newsmagazine Veja, support remained
strong and steady at 88 percent, a preference that is helped
by high public confidence in the military, which hovers
around then 70 percent mark. Even a poll of service members
that appeared in the same edition of Veja showed that some 63
percent either supported or are at least open to the idea of
deploying the military internally, depending on the
situation. Media outlets often fuel debate by questioning
the presence of 190,000 soldiers posted to bases in urban
areas, when there are no evident national defense missions to
perform in those areas.

5. (U) Since Minister Nelson Jobim took over the Defense
portfolio, he and various commanders have openly contemplated
the idea of involving the military in urban crime fighting
missions, lauding the military's preparedness to taking on
that role. Colonel Claudio Barro Magno Filho, commander of
the Brazilian troops in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti
(MINUSTAH) was quoted in the daily newspaper Estado de Sao
Paulo in 2007 noting that the peacekeeping mission was
serving as a laboratory to put into practice the planning
that had been done for similar operations that might be put
in place within Brazil. He noted that under the right
conditions--political support and integration of all law
enforcement entities on the ground--the Brazilian military
could succeed in carrying out anti-crime operations similar
to those it was undertaking under MINUSTAH. During an April
9 hearing before the Chamber of Deputies, Jobim suggested
that such a role for the military could be considered, but
only after an improved legal framework allowing such
deployments was passed in Congress.

6. (U) The idea of using the military in this way is far from
new. At the end of the military regime more than two decades
ago the military suffered an identity crisis as its influence
waned and elected democratic civilian governments
consolidated their power, but the topic remained hotly
debated within the Brazilian military and civilian society.
Since then the military has been enlisted to act internally
several dozen times, usually in limited short-term missions
such as protecting heads of state attending the Rio Earth
Summit in 1992 and the Mercosul Summit in Rio in 2006, and
occasionally, as in Operation Rio in 1994, to combat
organized crime and drug traffickers.

7. (U) The Lula government has approved military deployments
for internal security purposes several times since it came to
power in 2003. That year, at the request of the Rio de
Janeiro state government, it approved the use of the military
to augment police patrols. In 2006, under a judicial
warrant, the military was allowed to occupy eight favelas to
retrieve weapons stolen from the military compound. Most
recently, the Army helped support security preparations for
the Pan American games in 2007 at the request of Rio State

BRASILIA 00000993 003 OF 004

Governor Sergio Cabral (a strong Lula ally). Prior to the
Pan Am games, Justice Minister Tarso Genro affirmed that the
military could act in public security without violating the
constitution in their role as guarantors of law and order,
and as long as its mission was well defined, limited in
duration, and agreed to by the governor of the state in which
they would be present.

8. (U) In fact, in part because of the numerous occasions for
which it had been called to deploy internally, in 2004 the
Army converted the 11th Brigade of the Southeast Military
Command based out of Campinas, Sao Paulo into a light
infantry brigade with a formal "guarantee of law and order"
or "GLO" mission. Now known informally as the "Brigada GLO,"
it specializes in urban conflict, use of non-lethal
munitions, and anti-riot actions, and is trained to undertake
operations against narcotraffickers and organized crime.

A Bump in the Road

9. (U) On June 16th, 2008, three youths between the ages of
17 and 24 years old from the "Morro da Providencia", a favela
in Rio de Janeiro, were killed by drug traffickers after
being abducted by Army soldiers deployed to the favela, who
"sold" them to rival drug dealers. Eleven officers from the
Western Military Command were involved, and three of them
have already confessed their participation in the crime. The
Brazilian Army had been occupying the "Morro da Providencia"
for six months to provide security for workers of the
Programa Cimento Social (Social Cement Program), an
initiative of current federal deputy and Rio mayoral
candidate Marcelo Crivella. The State Secretary of Public
Security, Jose Beltrame, as well as the Brazilian Bar
Association have strongly criticized the presence of the
Brazilian Army in the favela, claiming they have no expertise
in public security. A lower court judged ruled that the Army
had to exit the favela, a decision the federal government is
appealing. Both Jobim and Army Chief of Staff General Enzo
Peri have defended the legality of the Army's presence and
its mission, which was to provide security so that a social
development project could be completed in an economically
distressed area dominated by drug traffickers. (Note:
Without military protection, the social project has been

10. (SBU) Though the federal military,s presence in Rio in
the lead-up to the 2007 Pan Am Games was publicly heralded as
a success, many Consulate contacts (including state public
security officials) have expressed their view that the
deployment did not have any lasting positive effect on the
security situation. Rather, they say, the military
deployment in advance of the Games was a calculated political
move on the part of the new Governor to counter Rio,s
negative reputation as a dangerous city. The military, along
with state police forces, conducted several high-profile
"raids" in favelas to send drug traffickers the message that
the Pan Am Games needed to take place without incident. Rio
was uncharacteristically calm during the Games, but returned
to "normal" shortly after the international delegations and
tourists departed.

11. (SBU) A significant consequence of the military,s
presence in Rio,s favelas is that corrupt members of the
military have become part of the problem. Corrupt soldiers
terrorize residents and demand protection money. Some
Consulate NGO contacts report that the security situation in
the favelas has actually deteriorated since the military's
deployment because now there are several competing elements
jockeying for power-- drug traffickers, corrupt local police
(militias), and corrupt soldiers. In many cases, residents
are pressured and threatened by all of these groups.

BRASILIA 00000993 004 OF 004

A Risky Proposition

12. (U) Even before the incidents in Rio, some defense
experts had sounded a note of caution towards the idea of
deploying the military in this way, noting that training for
war and to provide public security were incompatible and that
the legacy of two decades of military repression still
lingered in people's minds In a meeting with poloff
Joanisval Brito, a Senate legislative advisor and that body's
leading expert on national defense issues, stated that it
would be unwise to employ the military for anything other
than temporary and limited missions, such as emergency
response or providing security for international events--
which are already allowable under current law. Open-ended
public security missions are fraught with risks, he noted,
because they have the potential of corrupting the
military--eroding confidence in it--and require wholesale
changes in training, doctrine, and in Brazilian laws. The
only way the Congress could see itself pressured into
allowing such actions would be for Brazil to suffer a
continuous series of high-profile incidents of such shocking
nature that the Congress would have no choice but to act to
provide broad authority for these types of missions.


13. (SBU) For the moment, the pendulum has swung against
deploying the military for these kinds of domestic missions.
Once the next wave of high-profile criminal acts takes place,
however, it will probably swing back again. There is no
constitutional question as to whether the military may deploy
for internal security purposes, as that is already allowed by
the constitution. The issue Brazilians are grappling with is
how broadly these internal missions may be defined. Settling
this question is essential to formalize a legal regime
allowing for the systematic use of the military in a range of
public security roles, in place of the current haphazard and
ad hoc use of the military whenever public pressure to do
something about crime builds to the boiling point. It is not
clear that Brazil's congress is prepared to act on the matter
at this point. Until then, the pendulum will keep swinging
with the headlines of the day. We doubt that any Brazilian
government will permanently rule out deploying the military
for internal security purposes so long as it remains a
temptingly simple, popular, and politically useful tool for
addressing public security crises. End comment.


© Scoop Media

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