From the public security blog of the O Dia daily (Rio de Janeiro). My translation follows, with comments in the form [italics --Ed.]
The State and Its Armed Forces v. Society
By João Batista Damasceno, political scientist at the Fluminense Federal University, justice of the state high court of Rio de Janeiro (TJ/RJ) and board member of Brazilian Judges for Democracy.
American films about legal proceedings always start with the names of the ligitants: The People v. So-and-so. In the Brazilian reality, however, it is not the People who oppose the defendant. It is the State and its armed services against which the People must defend themselves.
[Kramer v. Kramer. The People v. Larry Flynt. --Ed.]
The deaths of David Wilson da Silva, 24, Marcos Paulo Campos, 17 , and Wellington Gonzaga da Costa, 19, lead us to reflect on whether what we are seeing here is a crime committed by rogue public agents or the deliberate act of a police state in frank expansion.
The Providência shantytown and the Brazilian Army have a history going back 111 years. It was in Providência that former combatants in the Canudos Massacre settled in 1897, after the Army exterminated the wretched, fanatic followers of Antônio Conselheiro.
[If you ever read the sermons of the Conselheiro, you find a marked resemblance with American fanatic John Brown, author of the raid on Harper's Ferry. More than mere monarchist religious fanatics, the followers of the Conselheiro objected to the fact that the late Empire abolished slavery, the First Republic promptly reinstated it, and the official abolition of slavery in the 1890s was not really enforced, leaving a de facto slavocracy in place, especially in the Northeast, from where the Conselheiro drew his followers. --Ed.]
The Canudos War: History and Origins of the Shantytown
From a small hill in the city of Canudos, called Favela because of a variety of small fava bean that grew there, came the seeds that would later be planted on the Morro da Providência, located in the heart of what was known at the time as Little Africa, comprising the neighborhoods of Santo Cristo, Gamboa, Santa Rita, Candelária, Saúde, Praça Onze and Estácio. The planting of those fava beans gave the shantytowns their name: favela. Agriculture never prospered there, but favelas quickly sprung up everywhere.
Consigned to shantytowns and deprived of elementary rights, the young men of Providência, in Little Africa, spent four hours in military custody before being executed. Detaining or searching someone without probable cause would itself be an abuse of authority. “A well-founded” reason to search or detain is the expression the law uses. Suspicion is not enough. Their release after four hours in custody would also constitute abuse of authority. Without a foundation for the detention, why were they prevented from freely coming and going, though for only a short while? But above and beyond the assault on their rights, the young men, just like enemies without the rights afforded by the Geneva Convention, which governs warfare, were handed over to a rival drug gang. Their bodies were found on June 15 in a garbage dump in Caxias, in the Baixada Fluminense. Garbage dumps, shantytowns, and the abandoned neighborhoods of the urban periphery: These are the places to which the State consigns the poor. The spatial division of city of Rio de Janeiro during the XX Century was deliberately planned in this way.