Rio: “Citizenship, Not Hot Lead” in Wake of Shantytown Shootout

Jornal da Band (Brazil), October 17

“As long as this is the policy adopted I see no way out for the situation of violence here in Rio. The scenes shown yesterday on television reflect acts of execution. This is the result of this policy: summary execution and massacres.” –Wadih Damous, OAB-RJ (Brazil)

“Governo tem que levar cidadania e não chumbo para as comunidades”, diz presidente da OAB-RJ
(Agência Brasil): Wadih Damous, president of the Order of Brazilian Attorneys (OAB) in Rio de Janeiro, launches a loud protest over a recent armed invasion of a shantytown controlled by heavily armed drug traffickers.

Images televised by news program yesterday showed a police helicopter gunning down two men fleeing the scene. News footage reportedly seemed to indicate they were not armed at the time. (Yes, primetime news broadcasts show people getting killed. On Globo, at least. )

The police later said they recovered pistols from the bodies of the men, however.

Debate generally revolves around whether, once the men stopped resisting and presented no threat to the helicopter, they could legitimately be blown away. I have not yet seen it myself. Twelve were killed in the eight-hour firefight, including a 4-year-old child and a policeman.

Several months ago, after the human rights committee of the OAB-RJ insisted on charging that summary executions had taken place in a similar operation, Damous disbanded the committee and summarily dismissed the president. See

Which makes this current position seem like something of an astonishing about-face on the part of the OAB-RJ’s presiding officer.

Rio de Janeiro – Na avaliação do presidente da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil no Rio de Janeiro (OAB-RJ), Wadih Damous, é necessário que o governo adote, no combate à violência, políticas públicas integradas de médio, longo e curto prazo. Damous não descarta medidas de repressão, mas salienta que não são as mais eficazes.

In the view of Damous, president of OAB-RJ, the government must adopt integrated public policies to combat violence in the medium, long and short term. Damous does not rule out repressive measures, but says these are not the most effective.

You read in O Globo today that police killings are up roughly 35% over last year, even as crime rates trend down.

“É obvio que essas ações devem envolver a ação policial, que, no entanto, deverão estar ligadas, integradas, a investimentos sociais em educação, emprego, saúde e lazer. O estado tem que levar cidadania e não só chumbo para essas comunidades. Eu só vejo a reversão deste quadro com a adoção dessas políticas de integração do cidadão”, defendeu o presidente da OAB-RJ.


Damous classificou a operação da Polícia Civil do Rio de Janeiro como uma “ação de violência” e disse que esses episódios já fazem parte da realidade carioca. A operação, que aconteceu ontem (17) nas favelas da Coréia e do Taquaral, em Senador Camará, zona Oeste da cidade, resultou em doze mortos, cinco feridos e acabou com a prisão de doze pessoas.

Damous classified the state judicial police operation as a “violent action” and said such episodes have become part of the social reality of the city. The operation on October 17 in the Coréia and Taquaral shantytowns in Senador Camará, in the Western Zone, resulted in 12 deaths, five wounded, and resulted in the arrest of 12.

I read 10 arrests earlier.

“O que se viu ali foi mais uma cena que traduz a noção de guerra em que se assenta a política de segurança pública no estado do Rio de Janeiro. Foram cenas pouco edificantes até de serem vistas no cinema, mas que já fazem parte da realidade aqui do estado”.

“What you saw there was one more scene that reflecting the war mentality on which public safety policy in Rio is based. These were scenes of the kind that are not very edifying even when seen on the movie screen, but which are part of the reality of life in the state.”

Para o presidente da OAB-RJ, a política de confronto adotada pelo governo do estado só tem como resultado as mortes e, em sua maioria, de moradores de comunidades pobres.

In Damous’s view, the policy of confrontation adopted by the state government only results in death, mainly of residents of poor communities.

“Enquanto esta for a política adotada eu não vejo saída para a situação de violência aqui no Rio de Janeiro. As cenas mostradas ontem pelas imagens da televisão refletem atos de execução. Este é o resultado desta política: execução sumária e chacinas”, concluiu.

“As long as this is the policy adopted I see no way out for the situation of violence here in Rio. The scenes shown yesterday on television reflect acts of execution. This is the result of this policy: summary execution and massacres,” said Damous.

At the Alemão, there were no independent witnesses to many of the deaths — other than area residents themselves, who were either ignored or intimidated into silent — and medical reports showed signs that some of the young men had been killed while in positions of submission. Blasts to the occipital region on the back of the head were seen in some cases.

The bodies were policed up by the military police and delivered without clothing, destroying valuable evidence. Photos of the rounded-up corpses, apparently taken inside police vehicles, showed up later on YouTube, in a post titled “The bums get what they deserve.”

Unlike some Brazilian news organizations, we warn you: If you would rather not see graphic images of violent death — I am not keen on them myself — this is not the video clip for you or your kids. But it illustrates my point: Bodies shown being policed up on the battleground, clothed, eventually arrived at the medical examiner, naked. And some of the wounds in question are very much in evidence.

In this case, however, a film crew was on hand filming the operation.

The BAND reporter you see their recounts that the news team itself took fire and is shown wearing a bulletproof vest. That combat footage is hairy. You ask me, that was an insane assignment. The union representing those people needs to take a serious look at their news safety rules.

The operation was looking to seize an arms cache and serve arrest warrants. 10 persons were arrested alive. The military police was not involved, as I understand it: A fairly new SWAT-style unit of the state judicial police, CORE, is shown in action there.

A Rio PM battalion recently had 10% of its manpower arrested for taking payoffs to put the “fix” in for the drug trade, and some 200 of its troopers are also under investigation.

It seems that maybe the PM has been taken offline for such duty in some cases.

Damous of the OAB-RJ has apparently gotten rid of a voice that was calling for very concrete actions in such cases — investigation of concrete acts of summary execution and destruction of evidence, for example — and replaced it with the usual vague, finger-waggling moralizing.

There is no doubt, for example, that arresting drug gangs who have military-grade hardware in plentiful supply is going to be difficult to do without giving police the means to defend themselves.

There certainly are concrete issues in this case that could be discussed: What are the rules of engagement for such operations? What investigation is done of police shooting deaths? Why are residents left in the line of fire rather than evacuated?

Why not send everyone off to a local high school gym for as long as it takes? You could frisk, screen and question everyone, depriving the bandits of their human shields. You could besiege them for as long as it took to ge them to surrender. Having cleaned out the area, you leave a permanent community policing presence behind.

I am not an expert on these things, but surely there is someone out there with a proposal for getting something like that done. It would take a lot of resources, the lack of which is often posited as a justification for continuing to practice the mass-maneuver frontal assault as a method of dismantling these armed Bolivian marching powder regional distribution centers.

Really, I have no idea. But I would be interested in hearing what ideas the experts do have.

On the other hand, just to play the devil’s advocate for the police action in question here, there seem to have been results gotten here that are outside the normal pattern. Ten — or 12 — suspects were taken into custody rather than being brought out as corpses.

In massacres, everyone dies.

The result this week is, then, unfortunately, not usual, and possibly a welcome sign of a change in approach. The suspects can now be questioned and mined for intelligence that could aid further operations.

There were survivors here. That could be good sign. Damous is gabbling, I think. The idea here seems to be to suggest that putting the state judiciary (civilian) police in the lead is not yielding any change in approach or results.

See also

This proposition needs careful reality-testing.

Another welcome change here would be seeing the police explain the circumstances of each death in satisfactory detail. If rules of engagement were not observed properly in the helicopter shootings, that should certainly be debated, and explanations demanded.

When BOPE and the 16th BPM arrested the leader of an incursion at the Morro da Mineira earlier this year, for example, the man wound up being let go — after being ostentatious perp-walked for the press. See

If this operation does not have a similar result, that might also be a good sign.

Damous, on the other hand, is simply coming in late in the chorus of hysterical virginity over the issue. He is not even on the same page as the rest of the choir. What is up with this guy, anyway?


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