BOPE Blogs: “Only the Hard Men Can Save the City”

NGOs dream of using the criminal power and the weapons of the traffic in favor of a social revolution they deem to be imminent and inevitable … It is needful for us not to heed these caveats, and to assume the risks and the collateral damage. It would be impossible to be more explicit than the words of Gov. Sergio Cabral about the narcotraffickers: “They are terrorists, they are evildoers.” – Col. Mário Sérgio de Brito Duarte, former commander of BOPE, the “trooper elite” of the Rio military police — unofficial but highly publicized motto: “We kill to create a better world” – and currently in charge of strategic planning for SESEG, Rio de Janeiro.

We need a communications policy and an ongoing dialogue with the mass media that will guarantee that the sense of risk is proportionate to the actual risk. –Rio de Janeiro mayor Cesar Maia, on his “ex-blog.”

Lula should be IMPEACHED for criminal association with a narco-guerrilla group, the FARC! Just look! El Tiempo reports that Brazil is offering to let Chávez and FARC negotiators meet on Brazilian soil! –Rio de Janeiro mayor Cesar Maia, September 20, 2007, loc. cit.

A minha inesquecível promoção a Sargento: On the Web log of Lt. Col. Duarte of the Rio de Janeiro state military police — author of Raiding Hell: The Truth of the Troop, a response to former BOPE Capt. Rodrigo Pimentel’s shocking fictionalized chronicle of police corruption and violence, The Trooper Elite — a guest blogger, journalist Gustavo de Almeida of the Jornal do Brasil, muses on “my unforgettable promotion to sergeant.”

Duarte, according to the professional CV set forth in his Blogger profile is a former drug policy adviser to Rio mayor Cesar “Chairman” Maia — who also (ex-)blogs, of course.

Here in the States, officials commenting outside the sphere of their official duties, such as at a conference or in a newspaper op-ed are required to utter the standard disclaimer: That their remarks reflect their personal opinion, do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the institution they represent, and so on. Col. Duarte’s does not carry such a disclaimer.

I have expressed some surprise recently that a senior aide to the state public security secretary for the state of Rio de Janeiro would write a Web log in which he seems to contradict — even ridicule — the stated policies of his employer, the elected state government.

The blog Red-baits human rights groups, expounds a sociology of crime drawn straight from the pages of Cesare Lombroso, and generally reprises — I do not think I am exaggerating much here — the sentimental education of Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: “Exterminate the brutes.”


The blog has on several occasions stated the theory that “left-wing politicians” have enlisted, or dream of enlisting, criminal armies as force multipliers in order to install a Communist revolution in Brazil. The opposition candidate for president also floated this theory publicly in the press last year — and recently repeated it. See

Shortly after the posts I translated — which had to do with the June 27 “megaraid” on the Complexo do Alemão — Duarte stopped blogging for a time.

After local papers reported a promised crackdown on police misconduct — Rio: “Police Misconduct Probes Intensify,” Says Beltrame (August 11) — the same blogger posted a lengthy editorial calling on the authorities to improve conditions at the disciplinary battalion (BEP) where troopers convicted of crimes must, by law, serve their time — and not to even think of imprisoning police convicted of crimes with common prisoners. (Which is, of course, unthinkable: I believe we gringos also provide special arrangements to protect police convicted of crimes. But they still go to civilian jails.)

In Brazil, if you have a college degree, you are entitled by law to a special cell if you are arrested, elected officials and other civil servants cannot be tried in common court, and military police can only be tried by a parallel system of military justice that, while it resembles our UCMJ, is considered (by some) parallel to and co-equal with the civilian justice system.

Any efforts at legal reform that would subordinate military justice to civilian justice, in the name of equal access to justice, are met with the kinds of rhetoric of hysterical virginity you saw Senator Magalhães engaging in on the floor of the Senate in the clip I subtitled for you. “The patriotic forces must rise from the barracks and purify the nation!”

It is precisely because the Rio media channels and amplifies this kind of rhetoric so frequently — we hear Gloria Maria of TV Globo’s Fantástico, for example, describing the situation in Rio as “a war fought without quarter that is just like the war in Iraq, only it’s happening right here in Rio” — that it was so astonishing to see the O Globo kick off a series last Sunday titled “The New Dictatorship.”

This Sunday, O Globo begins publishing a series of reports titled “Brazilians who still live under the dictatorship,” which deals with how the nearly 1.5 million shantytown and hillside dwellers still live under a dictatorship [sic]. They have their fundamental rights violated by armed groups from the traffic or militias, or are submitted to every kind of indignity by a police that is ill-prepared and, often, corrupt.

The rhetoric of a retro-1964 coup d’etat, at the very least, really is in the air in Brazil. To take another example, when the Order of Brazilian Attorneys, São Paulo chapter sponsored the Cansei protest movement, the OAB in Rio rejected the movement with a statement linking it to “typical São Paulo golpismo, just like 1964.” And the organizer of the movement took great pains in his media interviews to deny that charge.

And finally, of course, Veja magazine — a reliable bellwhether for this sort of rhetoric, I find — has returned to screaming hysterically that the state-federal partnership against official corruption and organized crime infiltration of state agenices is a “looming police state.”

Against that background, on August 14, BOPE blogs again. The analysis the colonel has clipped, I hasten to add, is not with intrinsic interest of its own, and I will try to annotate.

Fui promovido a sargento. Sério. Por um dos comentaristas deste blog. Que usa, aliás, de bom humor na promoção, não me ofende (não sei se queria me ofender ou não, mas não ofendeu), e faz uma crítica até certo ponto construtiva, dizendo que estou defendendo demais a farda azul aqui neste blog.

I have been promoted to sergeant. By one of the people who leaves comments on this blog [on the Jornal do Brasil Web site]. Who uses good humor in the “promotion,” does not offend me (I do not know whether he meant to offend me or not, but I am not offended) and offers a criticism that is constructive, up to a certain point, saying that I am defending the blue uniform too much on this blog.

Rio TV infotainment personality and state lawmaker Wagner Montes has boasted in the past of having been made “honorary state commandant of military police.”

Concordo que às vezes passo do ponto – que o diga o tenente-coronel Mário Sérgio Duarte, a quem elogio muito por aqui, e outros tantos azuis como o coronel Ronaldo Menezes, o major Wanderby e outros tantos que se for citar, acaba até o espaço virtual. Curioso que, coincidentemente, citei três profissionais extremamente honestos, acima de qualquer suspeita. Bom, mas para explicar melhor algo que realmente acho que deve ser explicado – e neste ponto o comentarista do blog me abriu os olhos positivamente – vale uma pequena explicação. Talvez fique grande, mas, enfim, é pequena porque é um tanto irrelevante, é apenas um jornalista se explicando.

I agree that sometimes I cross the line — as Lt. Col. Duarte, whom I praise so often here, and others like Col. Menezes, Major Wanderley, might say, and so many others that if I were to mention them all, even the virtual space would be exhauste. It is curious that, coincidentially, I cited there three extremely honest professionals, above all suspicion. Well, to explain better a point that I really thought required no explanation — and on this point the blog commenter opened my eyes in a positive way — a short explanation is in order. It might even be a long one, but in any event, it is a short one because it is so irrelevant, just a journalist explaining himself.

O processo de degradação econômica do Rio de Janeiro teve como primeira grande conseqüência um caos social, uma desordem urbana em diversas instância, tal que a cidade há anos vive sob febres de violência. Entram governos, saem governos, a violência recrudesce, a guerra do tráfico faz mais vítimas, e além dos mortos e feridos, surgem vítimas silenciosas – recente pesquisa do Núcleo de Pesquisas da Violência (Nupevi), da Uerj, mostrou que são raros os cariocas que nunca ouviram um tiro e são muitos os cariocas que já foram assaltados ou no mínimo tiveram um parente ou amigo assaltado.Hoje, por mais que as autoridades municipais e estaduais tentem “elevar o astral” do Rio com Pan-Americano, com shows de artistas longevos, enfim, megaeventos de toda ordem, sabemos que esta é uma cidade doente.

The first major consequence of the economic decline of Rio was social chaos, urban disorder on various fronts, so much so that the city has been living through a fever of violence for years now. Governments come and governents go, violence breaks out again, the drug wars take more victimes, and besides the dead and wounded, there are silent victims as well. A recent studyy by the state university’s violence research center (NUPEVI) shows that it is a rare Rio resident who has never heard a gunshot, and many have been victims of armed robbery, or at least had a friend or relative robbed. Today, for all that city and state officials try to “raise the public image” of Rio with the Games, shows by aging pop stars, in other words, with megaevents of all sorts, we know that the city is sick.

O crime, de recurso de sobrevivência, passou a ideologia. A exclusão sócio-econômica fez a primeira parte: empurrou pessoas para a sobrevivência pelo crime. Muitas esquerdas, no entanto, defendem o tráfico como “redenção dos pobres”, o que é um engano. Na verdade, é escravidão dos pobres. Mas tergiverso, voltemos ao assunto principal. Depois da primeira parte, quando o crime é sobrevivência, vem a segunda, que é o crime como cultura.Não há organizações criminosas que mereçam o título de “organizações” no Rio de Janeiro. Ora, que há um Amigos dos Amigos, sim, há, que há um Comando Vermelho, do mesmo jeito é inegável. Mas tivessem estas quadrilhas fundamentadas mais em ideologia do que em práxis um mínimo de organização e já teriam virado uma só joint-venture, uma vez que é mais lucrativo partilhar os dividendos do que contar os mortos.

Crime, once a means of survival, has evolved into an ideology. Socioeconomic exclusion accomplished the first phase: It pushed persons into crime in order to survive. But many Lefts defend the Traffic as “the redemption of the poor,” which is a mistake. In truth, it is the slavery of the poor. But I digress, let us return to the main point. After the first phase, turning to crime in order to survive, comes the second, which is crime as a culture. There are no criminal organizations that really deserve to be called “organizations” in Rio de Janeiro. Yes, there’s there Friends of Friends, the Red Command. …

CV e ADA não guerreariam se fossem organizados. Analisariam investimentos, retornos, aplicações, faturamentos de pontos, reposição de armamentos, enfim, teriam uma logística tal que tomariam o Rio de Janeiro e nós, civis, em breve teríamos de nos comunicar dizendo expressões como “É nóis” ou “Já é”.As quadrilhas, portanto, ganharam “torcedores”. Um jovem que more no morro onde tem ADA passa a ser um “torcedor” do ADA. Certa vez, eu passava de bicicleta pelo Túnel Novo, em Copacabana, quando vi um rapaz largar as duas mãos do guidão só para sinalizar o C e o V com os dedos para um ônibus lotado de “compatriotas”.

The CV and ADA would not be at war if they were organized. They would analyze investments, returns, allocations, retail sales, turnover in their weapons inventory, in short, they would have a logistics sufficient to take over the city of Rio de Janeiro, and we, the civilians, would soon find ourselves speaking [gang slang]. The gangs, therefore, have attracted “fans,” a “rooting section.” A young man who lives in an ADA-controlled hillside neighborhood becomes a “fan” of the ADA. Once, I was riding my bicycle through the New Tunnel in Copacabana when I saw a kid let go of the handlebars with both hands just to flash the gang sign of the CV to a bus loading with his [“homies.”]

Resumindo: a desordem urbana, já bem representada pelos camelôs (fruto de anos de desemprego e demagogia eleitoral) virou um ser tangível. Para que estudar, trabalhar, produzir, compor, salvar vidas, participar de uma vida em sociedade, se o sujeito pode apenas empunhar armas, fazer sinais de identificação com uma quadrilha e vender cocaína? Para que ter uma vida normal se nesta você é sozinho e na outra, ao lado dos “irmãos” de fuzis, você tem amigos dos amigos por toda a cidade?Passemos agora aos azuis, que eu “vivo defendendo”. A desordem urbana faz mal. Não sou partidário do “tudo certinho” – dentro de casa, o sujeito pode deixar de lavar louças, viver de cueca no sofá, beber o dia inteiro, o que quiser. Mas na área comum do prédio, é outra coisa. E nossa “área comum” está no CTI.

Summing up: Urban disorder, well represented by the street vendors (the fruit of years of unemployment and electoral demagogy) has assumed a tangible shape. Why study, work, produce, compose, save lives, participate in social life, if a guy can just brandish guns, flash gang signs and sell coke? Why have a normal life if in this life are alone on this side and in the other life yo are “brothers” with assault rifles, and “friends of friends” all over the city. And now let us talk about the “blue” crew, who I am constantly defending. The chaos in the city is bad for them. I am not an advocate of “doing everything by the book” — in his own home, a man can leave off washing dishes, spend all his time on the couch in his underwear, drink all day, whatever. But in the common area of the building, that’s another matter. And our “common area” is in intensive care.

No momento, no Rio de Janeiro, vejo a Polícia Militar como a primeira força de trabalho a participar da reconstrução da cidade. Vejam bem, me refiro ao policial de rua, e no momento em que ele não esteja tirando dinheiro da van ou do taxista, ou inventando infração para extorquir R$ 10 de motorista. Primeira providência é colocar a corregedoria para trabalhar e punir isso. Segunda providência? Aumentar seus salários a um nível decente para que a extorsão não seja mais tão sedutora. Mais sedutor, com certeza, poder olhar para os filhos bem-alimentados e dizer que trabalha honestamente porque ganha o que merece. Não dá para o sujeito ficar tirando R$ 10 de quem quer que seja na rua. Se for para fazer isso, vai assaltar de uma vez. É mais ousado e menos humilhante.Bom, mas, enfim, este policial de rua, bem-pago, bem-treinado e bem-equipado, no espaço urbano, passa a interagir com os moradores de um modo, bom, digamos, tem uma….palavrinha! para isso: comunitário. Em torno destes policiais se cria um círculo de confiança. É o Estado presente, armado, que possibilita, por sua vez, a circulação diurna e noturna, de forma ordenada. Há uma farda, há ostensividade.

At the moment, in Rio, I see the military police as the frontline force for reconstructing the city. Mind you, I am talking about the beat cop, at a moment when he is not getting money out of a van or taxi driver or making up an infraction to extort ten bucks from a motorist. The first thing we do is put internal affairs on the job of punishing all this. Second thing? Raise salaries to a decent level to make extortion less tempting. It is more tempting to be able to see you kids eating well and say you work honestly because you earn what you deserve. … The guy can’t go on ripping off ten bucks from people he runs into on the street. Well then, so they beat cop, well paid, well trained and well equipped, starts interacting with residents in a matter more conducive, to coin a phrase, to “community policing.” A circle of trust forms around these cops. They are the presence of the armed State, making it possible to be out on the streets, day or night, in an orderly way. There is a uniform, there is an ostensive presence.

Not to be confushed with an “ostentatious” presence, such as we have often seen in São Paulo. Mounted cavalary patrolling the sidewalks Av. Paulista, CHiPs tearing up the turf in the park at Ipiranga on their Harleys … I could tell you stories.

Com este policial e os restantes – me refiro ao modelo utópico, bem-pago, etc – passa a aparecer a oportunidade. O mercadinho da rua, a lanchonete, o barzinho da noite, tudo passa a receber mais gente. Abre-se mais negócios. Exemplo? O Maracanã. Coloca a Força Nacional, a PM, a PCERJ e a PF, pronto, reaparecem crianças, mulheres, famílias. É uma equação simples.Do mesmo modo é a outra: sem o controle do Estado e com a sedução do crime e da chamada vagabundagem, não há possibilidade de ordem. Há desmando, há descontrole, desaparece o pacto social por essência, entra em cena uma degradação que não beneficia nem mesmo aqueles que vivem da venda de cocaína. Que me perdoem, mas é uma vida de merda. Viver com milhares de paranóias para ter carros do ano e colares caros, existencialmente falando, é tão vazio quanto passar a vida como reserva do Ipatinga. E olha que, como rubro-negro, sei bem o horror que é o Ipatinga.

With this beat cop and the others — I am referring now to the utopian ideal, well paid and so on — opportunity starts to present itself. A small market, a luncheonette, the little bar, all start to get more trade. More businesses open. Example? The Maracanã Stadium. You put the FNSP in there, the PM, the state police and the federal police, and once again you see kids, women, families. It is a simple equation. The flip side is the same: without State control and given the seductive power of crime and the so-called “thug life,” order is not possible. There is no control, no authority, the essentials of the social contract go out the window and in comes a degrading scenario that does not benefit even those who make a living selling cocaine. Pardon me, but that is a shitty way to live. Living with thousands of paranoias just to get the latest model car and expensive necklaces, existentially speaking, is as empty as spending your life as a benchwarmed for a bush-league football team like Ipatinga. And believe me, as a Flamengo fan, I know full well what a horror that is.

Corinthians 2, Santos 0.

Is our local team bouncing back from that weird scandal with that Russian oligarch who tops Putin’s shit list?

Mas a minha atual crença é de que isso não será possível sem o fortalecimento de sua Polícia Militar. Fortalecimento moral, financeiro, logístico, operacional. Junto com isso, há outras etapas e frentes de trabalho (diminuição de carga tributária, investimento em infra-estrutura, apoio a micro, pequena e média empresa, investimento em educação, saúde e transporte), mas, no momento, por absoluta falta de competência de governos sucessivos, estamos em um ponto no qual o fortalecimento da PMERJ é o item mais essencial. Só sobreviveremos com o gloriarolandismo, ou seja, tal e qual a Glória Roland, incentivarmos todos os moradores a cuidarem do pedacinho mais perto de suas casas. Em certos pedaços, os moradores precisam dos azuis por perto. Eu diria, em muitos pedaços. Por tudo isto, quero que a Polícia Militar do Rio de Janeiro fique forte para a missão dura que tem pela frente. Que cada um deles seja honesto como um Wanderby, bravo como um Príncipe, inteligente como um Mário Sérgio, líder como um Millan e cordial como um Menezes. A cultura do crime, de conquistar pela força, matar quem tem e quem não tem, assaltar, viver em gangues, tem de ser substituída pela cultura dos azuis, de tradição familiar, de raízes e perseverança. O sargento De Almeida terminou sua longa e entediante exposição e pede permissão para se retirar. Um bom fim de semana.

But my current belief is that none of this will be possible without strengthening the military police. Morally, financially, logistically, operationally. Along with this, there are other phases and fronts we need to work on (reducing the tax burden, investing in education, health and transportation …)

Reducing the astonishing rate of tax evasion — a hangover, in part, from the day President Collor seized everyone’s savings, said he would give it back, and then NEVER DID — according to some policy wonks, will be key to reducing the overall tax burden. It’s not a completely insane policy argument.

But at the moment, thanks to the absolute lack of competence on the part of successive governments, we are at a point when strengthening the Rio military police is the most essential thing. We will only survive the Gloria Roland mentality if we encourage every citizen to take better care of their own back yard. In some parts of the city, residents need the men in blue to be close by. In many parts, I would say. For all these reason, I want to see the PMs reinforced for the hard mission they have in front of them. Let each of them be as honest as a Wanderby, as brave as a prince, intelligent as a Mário Sérgio, a leader like Millan and as cordial as Menezes.

Not even Neuza is familiar with those cultural references, but says they are all likely football references. (That is soccer to us gringos, who insist that our game, which reserves only a token symbolic role for actually kicking the ball with your feet, is the real football.)

The culture of crime, of dominating by force, killing the have-nots, doing armed robberies, living in gangs, has to be replaced by the culture of the men in blue, of family tradition, of roots and determination. Sgt. De Almeida has ended his long and boring speech and now asks permission to be dismissed. Have a good weekend.

He might also have mentioned a well-paid police force that is no longer forced — or permitted — to moonlight as private security or, in one murky recent case, apparent strikebreaking goons:

Read that story about how an on-duty police major played the little game of “activating” the strike-busting goons to arrest the striker whose ass they had just kicked in their capacity as private citizens just out for a stroll while armed to the teeth.

There is public-private governance arbitrage going on here.

The federal police recently ran a very interesting series of briefings on new rules it is going to enforce on private security in Rio. I saw no coverage of that at all, locally, but I thought that was an extremely interesting sleeper story.

When a policeman gets killed doing his militia job — which can pay up to ten times his salary as a cop, one reads — but is wearing his uniform at the time, do we give him the full bagpipes playing “Danny Boy” treatment at St. Paddy’s?

To cite the New York City equivalent. I can think of at least one case where the Rio news media did exactly that. Which just kind of blows my mind.

And if he gets arrested doing it, does he still get the professional courtesy of being tried by a military rather than a civilian court?

In the case of the Barra da Tijuca sex-slavery pimp and militiaman whose day job was a palace guard at the Guanabara Palace? It appears that yes, he does get that professional courtesy.

Which is kind of astonishing.

Mexico’s CNDH — federal human rights committee — recently said that it refrained from investigating charges that state police moonlighting in paramilitary death squads because, if they did so, they did so “as private citizens.” See

We have some cops in New York right now, accused of excessive force and wrongful death in an alleged “overkill” shooting of a dangerous suspect, behaving provocatively, according to some reports, in Jamaica, Queens.

They are being tried by a jury of their peers in a common court. They get flack from Sharpton and are supported from the PBA. Their defense worries about pretrial publicity.

Everyone debates the issue hotly.

It is big news.

Which is exactly as it should be. Even the Reverend Al has a legitimate role to play — provided he plays it responsibly, of course.

Because in New York City, at least — which is, of course, no utopia itself, and heir to all the ills of any major metropolis — we can at least accept with a straight face and a fair amount of confidence that really, really insane and gross police misconduct and abuse is a shocking anomaly — “stop baby what’s that sound everybody look what’s going down” — rather than an everyday jeitinho.

You never hear cops calling suspects “skels” anymore. Not in public or on the boob tube, at least.

So when the cop bagpipes go by on St. Paddy’s day — the usual jokes about the black cop blowing on the sheep-stomach being “black Irish” — you wave your little flag and you give the Finest a polite and dutiful hand.

The Abner Louima case — “It’s Giuliani time!” — was disgusting. But the Finest rendered accounts to society over it.

Grudgingly, at some moments. But they did it. You can’t realistically ask for too much more — or any less.


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