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UPP All Night | Measuring Rio’s Pacification Policy

Attacks by drug traffickers show that urban pacification remains a challenge …

By: Antônio Werneck
Source: O Globo |  23/02/2013 | Portal ClippingMP.
Translation & subtitles: C. Brayton

«… an investigation underway indicating that an internal struggle over the management of the escola de samba Mangueira has resulted in homicides.»

The carioca daily measures the progress of the UPP program — Police Pacification Units, more or less. Implemented in 2008, the program is modeled on a similar policy initiative in Medellín, Colombia.

The basic idea is to create a permanent police presence by establishing bases inside the communities served, while carefully overseeing base personnel for signs of corruption or participation in social-entrepreneurial, parapolitical militia schemes.

UPP coordinator admis that intelligence services need improvement.

Pacified shantytowns once again experience episodes revealing that public safety remains a challenge for the Rio state government.

In Manguinhos, local residents confronted military police, even as traffickers exchanged gunfire with UPP police, wounding one trooper.

Between Sunday night and Monday morning, three victims were murdered in the Morro da Mangueira community, local businesses shut down on orders from the traffic, and a UPP policeman had his weapon stolen.

State governor Sérgio Cabral admitted, during a event held yesterday at Guanabara palace, that such difficulties were to be expected.

— No one suffers from the delusion that after 40 years of control by the «parallel power», the criminal element would simply abandon the area without fighting back. We were sure they would fight back. Many such challenges remain.

UPP coordinator Col. Paulo Henrique Azevedo de Moraes said that the presence of traffickers armed with assault rifles has UPP commanders worried. The colonel said that changes would be made, including the reassignment of UPP field commanders.  Azevedo also admitted that the criminal intelligence of the UPPs needs improvement.

— We seek constant improvement, making adjustments, reassigning commanders and taking care to assign police with a profile that makes them a suitable match for the communities in which they operate. In the intelligence area, we really do need to evolve, with better-qualified troopers and better equipment.

The activities of the traffic in Vila Cruzeiro, occupied in November  2010, cost the colonel a good night’s sleep as he kept up with news of the attack and its consequences. The colonel emphasizes, however, the difference between events in Vila Cruzeiro and Mangueira:

—    In the Penha and Alemão communities, and expecially in the Vila Cruzeiro, the traffic is deeply rooted. If you think about it, you will recall that the fiercest battle to dominate these areas took place in Vila Cruzeiro.

In Mangueira, on the other hand, we have a healthy arrangement with the community, which is not true in Penha. In  Mangueira, for example, it was local residents who located the .40 caliber pistol stolen from a policeman. The weapon was recovered.

According to the UPP program’s commander, there is an investigation underway indicating that an internal struggle over the management of the escola de samba Mangueira has resulted in homicides. Paulo Henrique says these crimes may involve traffickers and escola members dissatisfied with the succession of senior leaderhip. Elections are scheduled for April.

—    According to the information I have, these deaths may have been the outcome of a power struggle inside the escola de samba over who would manage the funding of the carnival society.

Although he is not conducting a study in this area at the moment, sociologist Michel Misse, coordinator of the UFRJ’s Center for Research on Citizenship, Conflict and  Violence believes that the pacification policy — as state public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame has also said, by the way — was not conceived as an effort to put an end to the traffic, but rather to reassert control over territories dominated by the traffic.

—    My feeling is that the ship of state finds it difficult to navigate the situation. It is unlikely that the traffic will disappear. The success of the UPP program has been to recover and maintain a state presence in areas once dominated by the traffic. For that reason, it will be necessary to navigate wisely in order to prevent the return of armed criminal groups — he said.

According to PM reserve colonel Milton Corrêa da Costa, a signficant challenge to the UPP model is police corruption.

—   To confront this problem, I am in favor of monitoring the conduct of all UPP personnel, with swift and exemplary punishment in cases of serious misconduct. I also defend the rotation of officers from UPP to UPP from time to time.

Public safety blog A Nova Democracia is a dedicated news clipper and critic of the UPP program.