Rio: Sector Analysis on the Black Market in Guns and Ammo

The image “https://i2.wp.com/i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/munitionmap.png” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
From the Small Arms Survey 2007 study: “Quantity of shells seized per neighborhood.” Areas with “strong presence of criminal faction” marked in red. Are militia groups counted as “criminal factions”? Because all those red zones seem to clump pretty heavily in militia country. Click to zoom.

Data suggest that the Rio police are a strong candidate for the source of misappropriated ammunition. Recent discoveries of police involved in such activities sustain this observation. In July 2005, the man who was for 16 years the chief of the munition depot for the state civil police of Rio de Janeiro was arrested with nine other policemen and accused of siphoning off at least 10,000 rounds to drug trafficking organizations … Small Arms Survey 2007: Armas na Cidade, Chapter 9

Desvio de munição abastece arsenal do tráfico nas favelas: Aluizio Freire of G1/Globo reports that “misappropriated ammunition supplies the arsenal of the traffic in the favelas.”

An interesting story on the “bazaar of violence,” as those guys at Global Guerillas call it.

Insofar as the GG gang likes to treat the issue from a sort of “freakonomics” point of view, however — the falling price of roadside bomb-placing in Iraq is one of their classics — it falls seriously short in terms of how to interpret careful beancounting for the general public without putting them to sleep, I think.

Because it is also a story that consists mainly of fuzzy numbers from official sources in the service of gabbling vagaries and moral panic. It also tends to identify the “armed non-state actors” in Rio at the moment wholly and solely with the drug traffic.

For a look at the report from which most of this Globo reporting is cribbed, see

A polícia do Rio de Janeiro apreende por ano, em média, 100 mil munições de vários calibres das mãos dos criminosos, segundo dados da Delegacia de Repressão a Armas e Explosivos (Drae). De acordo com investigações da própria polícia, a maior parte da reposição desses arsenais é feita com a ajuda dos desvios das próprias instituições por policiais corruptos. A outra parte vem do tráfico internacional de armas.

The Rio police annually seize, on average, 100,000 rounds of ammunition of various calibres from criminals, according to data from the Arms and Explosives division (DRAE) [of the state judicial police.] According to police investigations, most of the resupply comes with the help of misappropriation of police supplies, by corrupt police. The other part comes from the international arms market.

They seized 100,000 on average during what period of time?

“Most”?

“É preciso que se faça uma reforma nas polícias. Hoje, impera a corrupção. O suprimento de armas e munições é feito por policiais corruptos. Eles ajudam a exterminar os próprios colegas de profissão”, acusa o sociólogo Antônio Rangel, coordenador do Programa de Controle de Armas de Fogo do movimento Viva Rio.

“The police must be reformed. Today, corruption reigns supreme. The supply of arms and ammunition comes from corrupt police. They help to exterminate their own colleagues,” charges sociologist Antônio Rangel, who coordinates the Firearms Control Program of the Viva Rio movement.

The top quote in any given Globo news report is almost invariably dedicated to shrieks of finger-wagging moral panic. You can set your watch by it.

“Movement”?

Viva Rio is an NGO funded by state and local governments, foreign governments, and multinational corporations. The Rio state police departments are official sponsors. It is, to coin a phrase, something of a GONGO. But who mainly bangs it?

Rangel is also a former Army lieutenant and firearms instructor, according to his official bio.

The image “https://i1.wp.com/i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/soundsofgunfire.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Infographic from the “ex-blog” of Rio Mayor Cesar “Chairman” Maia shows reported sounds of gunfire in the city. The Red Zone is the Western District, which Globo now reports — it’s definitive! though other news organizations beat the Silver Venus to the story by just about a year — is the hog heaven of the militia protection rackets. (Counterintuitively, by the way, the Green Zone is not a paradise on earth of peace and tranquillity, but rather an area of less frequent reports of gunfire.) See also
TV Globo: “Where Do The Militias Operate?”

O delegado Carlos Oliveira, titular da Drae, aponta os maiores entrepostos de armas do tráfico localizados nas favelas da Rocinha, Alemão e Coréia, com estoques de fuzis AR-15, AK-47, FAL e HK, além de metralhadoras .30. Ele acredita que os traficantes recebam de 4 mil a 5 mil munições de uma única vez, de acordo com a necessidade de reposição.

Carlos Oliveira, who heads DRAE, points to the largest drug-trade weapons caches found in Rochina, Alemão and Coréia, with stocks of AR-15, AK-47, FAL and HK assault rifles, as well as .30 machine guns. He believes the traffic receives from 4,000 to 5,000 rounds at a time, according to their resupply needs.

“Existem os fornecedores regulares e os eventuais”, afirma. “São centenas de cargas passando pelas rodovias ou vindo por outros meios. E olha que as apreensões que nós e a Polícia Rodoviária Federal fazemos não são poucas”, ressalta.

“There are regular suppliers and spot suppliers,” he says. “There are hundreds of cargos passing along the highways or coming in through other means. And look you, the seizures that we and the federal highway patrol effect are not chopped liver,” he says.

Fuzil já vale R$ 40 mil nas favelas

Assault rifle goes for R$40,000 in the shantytowns

You can buy a pretty good flex-fuel car, brand new, for R$25,000.

This is actually quite a bit higher than other price quotes I have read about over the last few months. None of them, mind you, showing a nota fiscal from such transactions to back the price quote.

But then again, remember that I am not out there with my checkbook, comparison shopping, the way I can do at FNAC and Casas Bahia with the price and range of available models of personal computers on the market here.

I do not have a death wish.

Mas boa parte do suprimento desses arsenais é feito sem que o fornecedor tenha que percorrer um trajeto muito longo. São os abastecimentos provenientes dos desvios de estoques das forças de segurança. Os fornecedores, nesse caso, são policiais corruptos da chamada ‘banda podre’. Diante dos altos lucros, pouco importa se o fuzil vendido hoje será usado adiante para matar um colega de profissão ou ele mesmo.

But a good part of the material in these arsenals is obtained without the supplier having to travel long distances. These are the supplies that are stolen from the stocks of public security agencies. The suppliers, in these cases, are corrupt police from the so-called “rotten element.” Given the high profitability of this business, they care little whether the assault rifle sold today might be used in the future to kill a colleague, or even the corrupt policeman himself.

Por outro lado, o aumento da repressão ao tráfico de armas nas estradas provocou uma mudança dramática no mercado dos desvios dos paióis de segurança. Segundo o delegado-titular da Coordenadoria de Recursos Especiais (Core), Rodrigo Oliveira, a dificuldade em trazer novas armas de fora elevou o preço das peças negociadas nas favelas. “Nas investigações, descobrimos que por um fuzil, que há três anos pagavam R$ 10 mil, agora chegam a desembolsar R$ 40 mil”, afirma.

On the other hand, the increased repression of the arms traffic on the highways has provoked a dramatic change in the market for theft from the public armory. According to the head of CORE, the Special Resources Coordination of the state judicial police, Rodrigo Oliveira, the difficulty of bringing in new weapons has raised prices for pieces sold in the shantytowns. “In our investigation, we discovered that an assault rifle that was going for R10,000 three years ago you know have to pay R$40,000 for,” he states.

AK-47s go for $500 in Tijuana, I was reading.

A constatação de que os policiais têm sido vítimas de suas próprias armas pode ser comprovada também por um estudo minucioso realizado com o garimpo de informações dos pesquisadores James Bevan (Small Arms Survey) e Pablo Dreyfus (Viva Rio). Com o trabalho “As armas e a cidade – Inimigo interior: Desvio de munição em Uganda e no Brasil”, eles fazem uma comparação de casos semelhantes de desvios de armas nos dois países.

The statement that police have been victims of their own weapons can be proven as well by a detailed study based on information poached from researchers James Bevan (Small Arms Survey) and Pablo Dreyfus (Viva Rio). In their work “Arms and the City — The Enemy Within: Ammunition Theft in Uganda and Brazil,” they compare similar cases of weapons misappropriation in the two countries.”

“The Enemy Within” is actually Chapter 9 of a document titled “Small Arms Survey 2007: Arms and the City.”

The original article from which this account is gisted is actually more informative — and provides a link to the full report. You will find it on Viva Rio’s Comunidade Segura Web site. One of those cases when you are better off reading the original press release than the rewrite of it under a journalistic byline — the imprimatur of Globo journalistic integrity.

Which is something of an oxymoron, as the old joke goes.

A pesquisa revela que, em outubro de 2006, os guerreiros da região de Karamoja, ao norte de Uganda, mataram a tiros 16 soldados ugandenses que estavam dirigindo operações de desarmamento compulsório na região. O estudo sugere que alguns desses soldados podem ter sido mortos por balas que eram destinadas para seu próprio uso.

The study shows that in October 2006, warriors [?] in the region of Karamojoa, Northern Uganda, shot 16 Ugandan soldiers to death as they directed a compulsory disarmament program in the area. The study suggests that some of these soldiers may have been killed by bullets that had been furnished for official use.

“Might have been”?

No Rio de Janeiro, segundo a pesquisa, 52 policiais foram mortos em serviço no ano de 2004. A evidência apresentada indica que alguns deles podem ter sido mortos por balas originalmente fornecidas para suas próprias forças. “O estudo descobre que uma quantidade significativa de munição apreendida pela polícia dos criminosos é do mesmo tipo da usada pela polícia do Rio de Janeiro”, revela um dos trechos do trabalho.

In Rio, according to the study, 52 police were killed on duty in 2004. The evidence presented suggests that some of them might have been killed by bullets originally furnished to their own police forces.

“Some of them”?

“Might have been”?

“The study discovered that a significant quantity of ammunition seized by police from criminals is of the same type used by Rio police,” reveals one passage from the work.

“Para a análise, uma seleção da munição é tomada como amostra para ser comparada com a munição da força de segurança de mesmo calibre e mesma origem. Cada estudo utiliza as marcações em cartuchos individuais de munição para determinar o ano de fabricação e a fábrica em que a munição foi produzida. Os dados neste ‘selo’ são então usados para criar perfis de munição nas mãos dos diversos grupos e fazer comparações entre eles”, explica o pesquisador Pablo Dreyfus.

“For our analysis, a sample of the ammunition is taken and compared with police ammunition of the same calibre and origin. Each study uses the markings on individual shells to determine the year of manufacture and the factory where the ammo was produced. The data on this “seal” are then used to create profiles of ammunition in the hands of various groups, and to compare them,” explains Pablo Dreyfus.

The logic of this Globo report is therefore as follows: “The fact that there are signs police ammunition may be diverted to criminals is proof that police ammunition is killing policemen.”

The statement in the lede, that most of the ammunition being received by criminals is diverted from public stocks is not supported by hard evidence, either.

But what are the actual chances of that happening, as best we can figure?

What are the actual dimensions of the problem, in hard numbers?

Surely these guys studying the problem, who have excellent credentials, managed to come to some hard conclusions? Or at least some reasonably well-founded probabilities?

Vague numbers and “we must launch a crusade against corruptionn!” are typical of moral panic campaigns — which is pretty much the standard operating mode of Globo journalism.

I have followed the problem myself as closely as I can — signs that government weapons get sold off the back of trucks to FARCs and narcs and all kinds of skeevy actors can be seen in other parts of Latin America.

So it may well be that this is a serious problem. I would even bet on it.

But how serious, exactly?

Official police statistics relating to police efficiency tend to need double-checking.

“Trust but verify,” that sort of thing.

But Globo does not do double-checking.

Globo does moral panic.

There is a further question hanging over this story, as well: When a Rio militia executes someone, where do they get their guns?

Some reports have indicated they take them off drug traffickers they kill, to avoid using service weapsons during their moonlighting chores (Rio militias are made up of off-duty (?) military and state cops, firemen, and soldiers)

Let me read the study myself and see if I can make any sense of this.

Globo fails to.

Not that I do not support the shrieks of “we must reign in police corruption,” mind you. It’s just that this is one of those situations that has been festering for decades, and everyone knows it. And then some bozo shows up and pretends to have uncovered it himself. Shocked! Shocked!

See also

I will do that in a separate post, but here is one thing I note right off: There are other hypotheses for the appearance of Brazilian-manufactured ammo showing up in the hands of Rio drug gangs.

For example, reimportation.

Brazil used to export this ammo, for example — God knows why — to Paraguay. The researchers describe this hypothesis as unlikely, but not capable of being ruled out by the study they were able to do.

Another hypothesis is “possible loss of stock obtained legally by civilians.” Not a very high probability, but also not capable of being ruled out.

Another hypothesis is that ammo is lost from public stocks, but not necessarily through police corruption.

But which factor is predominant?

Which factor weighs how much in the equation? Can the notion that “most of the ammo used by the drug gangs is provided by corrupt cops” be sustained with reasonably hard data?

Os dados sugerem que a polícia do Rio de Janeiro é uma forte candidata para o desvio. Recentes descobertas do envolvimento da polícia no desvio de munição sustentam essa observação. Em julho de 2005, o homem que durante possíveis de desvio 16 anos foi o chefe do depósito de munição da polícia civil do Rio de Janeiro foi preso, com nove outros policiais, e acusado do desvio de pelo menos 10.000 cartuchos para as organizações de tráfico de drogas (Secretaria de Segurança Pública do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, 2005; Dreyfus, 2006). … pode fazer uma forte afirmação de que uma quantidade considerável de munição usada por atores armados não-estatais tem origem nas forças de segurança do estado.

Data suggest that the Rio police are a strong candidate for the source of misappropriated ammunition. Recent discoveries of police involved in such activities sustain this observation. In July 2005, the man who was for 16 years the chief of the munition depot for the state civil police of Rio de Janeiro was arrested with nine other policemen and accused of siphoning off at least 10,000 rounds to drug trafficking organizations … A strong affirmation can be made that a considerable quantity of ammunition used by armed non-state actors originate with the state security forces.

Some 10,000 rounds out of 100,000 seized, on average, per year, and yet the percentage coming from crooked cops is supposedly now higher? It seems maybe the arrest failed to put a dent in the problem.

The most recent data used in this study was from 2005, by the way.

And just remember this, please: There are other “armed non-state actors” in Rio de Janeiro than the drug traffic.

Some of them with excellent access to public ammunition stocks by virtue of the fact that their day job is working for the public security forces.

There was that famous case, from TV Record news in Rio, I will see if I can find you the clip, in which men in police uniforms reportedly came banging into one community — Kelson’s, I believe — in police cars, brandishing their service weapons and yelling “We are the militia!”

Pois é.

But how many?

On which situation see also

Reprodução

“The AK-47 (above) and AR-15 the most sought after by the Traffic (Photo: Reproduction)”: G1’s caption. There are some 15 AR-15 manufacturers in the U.S. How do they know they are reproducing the model in use in Rio?

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