Cabral: The Caveirão is History


The caveirão (‘giant skull’): Quality is job one

… all the dead bodies piling up in mounds
And all the politicians making crazy sounds
–Lou Reed

Sérgio Cabral diz que vai aposentar “caveirões” (Terra): The armored vehicles used by Rio de Janeiro’s infamous BOPE squad for raids on shantytowns will be decommissioned, says the governor-elect of the coastal state.

Os carros blindados da polícia estão com os dias contados. O governador eleito do Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral Filho (PMDB), anunciou nesta terça-feira que sua política de segurança pública prevê a aposentadoria dos 10 “caveirões”, da PM, e do “pacificador”, da Coordenadoria de Recursos Especiais (Core) da Polícia Civil. Para ele, o uso desses veículos para entrar em favelas é “uma coisa assustadora”.

On the subject of BOPE and militarized policing of civilian populations in general, I’ll replay an earlier NMM-TV newsreel on the subject:

Cabral, who defeated the law-and-order Denise Frossard, explains:

“É um trauma para as comunidades. Não dá para fazer Segurança Pública com ‘caveirão'”, disse, acrescentando que a polícia entrará “prestando serviços e garantindo segurança à população”.

“This is traumatic for the communities. It does not work to do public safety with the ‘big skull’,” he said, adding that the police will enter “providing services and guaranteeing safety to the population.”

Cabral não quis comentar dados da Secretaria de Segurança Pública, segundo os quais a utilização de blindados reduziu em 54,5% o número de policiais mortos em ação. Em 2004, 44 PMs morreram nas operações. No ano passado, quando “caveirões” passaram a ser usados por outros quartéis além do Batalhão de Operações Especiais (Bope), foram 20. Para muitos policiais, o blindado é a maneira mais segura de entrar em favelas.

Cabral had no comment on data from the state Public Safety division which indicate that the use of armored vehicles reduced the number of police killed in action by 54.5% percent. In 2004, 44 PMs died in operations. In the last year, when “big skulls” began to be used by other PM barracks besides BOPE, 20 were killed. For many police, the armored car is the safest way to enter the shantytowns.

Safest for whom?

The controversial issue here is why, in the first place, police must use massive military maneuvers to serve arrest warrants, with the resulting collateral damage.

The alternative, as I understand from reading the experts on the concept: Interrupt the narco supply chain of drugs, at the borders, in the countryside, to the retail points of sale, the bocas de fumo; track suspects with intelligence operations; and select moments when suspects are not holed up in fortified positions, armed to the teeth, to effect arrests.

Jump them with massive numbers of heavily armed cops when they are alone, asleep and sucking their thumbs. That way, instead of random corpses, you get people you can offer plea bargains to in exchange for intelligence that can be used to roll up the next drug-dealing kingpin.

The retail trade in the morros could not survive without retail demand from the asfalto. There is a perceived double standard there — the monument to Magalhães’ son, who died of a cocaine overdose, in Salvador, Bahia, has a permanent military police honor guard, for example — that does little for the credibility of military police with the general population.

We Paulistas are wondering what José Serra will do on the public security front in our state.

There has been a political battle going on in the background with the interim governor, Claudio Lembo of the PFL, to keep the current security administration on.

That would be a shame, we think, given that those folks run, or countenance the presence, or have failed to curtail the activities, of death squads.

We have a thing about death squads. We tend to see them as canaries in the coalmine of democratic governance. If you cannot properly account for your corpses, I ask myself, how are you going to account for my foreign direct investment?

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