Brazil: “The Case Against Uncaging the Bicho”

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Vintage roleta with bichos. Source: Musem of the Policia Civil, Rio de Janeiro

RICK: How can you close me down? On what grounds?
RENAULT: I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here.
CROUPIER: Your winnings, sir.
RENAULT: Oh, thank you very much.

Chefe da polícia
pelo telefone
mandou avisar
Que na Carioca
havia uma roleta
para se jogar …

–Donga, “Pelo Telefone” (1916)

Que o chefe da polícia
Carioca, avisa
Pelo celular
Que lá na praça Onze
Tem um video-pôquer
Para se jogar…

–Gilberto Gil, “Pela Internet” (1997)

The Instituto Brasileiro Giovanni Falcone ran an op-ed in May by Brazilian federal prosecutors José Augusto Vagos and Luiz Fernando Lessa, against a proposal to legalize electronic gambling in Brazil, titled “Legalization of Gambling and the Consolidation of Impunity.”

I clip to file pra inglês ver, if only because this policy position seems to be the prevailing one at the moment.

The “Operation Gladiator” referred to here resulted in the indictment of various police officers, including a former police chief recently elected to the state legislative assembly — and a TV Globo journalist who claim he was trying to “infiltrate” the organization, rather than receiving payoffs from it to spy on law enforcement investigations. O Globo reported at the time (December 16, 2006):

Entre os 43 pedidos de prisão preventiva emitidos pelo Ministério Público Federal, na Operação Gladiador, deflagrada na tarde desta sexta, um deles era o do jornalista José Messias Xavier, da TV Globo. Segundo nota do Ministério Público Federal, o jornalista recebia mensalmente da organização criminosa para repassar informações sobre movimentações das Polícias Civil e Federal que pudessem atrapalhar os interesses da quadrilha. A nota diz ainda que a participação do jornalista foi descoberta durante as investigações, a partir do monitoramento telefônico de integrantes do grupo de Fernando Ignácio, em especial o advogado Silvio Maciel de Carvalho, seu principal elo de contato, com quem mantinha freqüentes ligações telefônicas.

Among the 43 arrest warrants applied for by federal prosecutors (MPF) in the case was one for journalist José Messias Xavier of TV Globo. A statement from the MPF said the journalist received a monthly sum from the criminal organization in order to pass along information about state and federal police movements that might affect the organization’s interests. It also said the journalist’s activities were discovered during the investigation, based on telephone wiretapping of members of the group controlled by Fernando Ignãcio, particularly lawyer Silvio Maciel de Carvalho, his principal contact, with whom he frequently spoke by telephone.

What ever happened to that case? The ombudsman of the Folha de S. Paulo, where he had worked for three months, said the paper would follow the example of the New York Times in the Jayson Blair case and carefully fact-check the 52 articles the man did for them.

If it ever kept that promise, I cannot seem to find it in their online archives.

Globo fired the guy, then apparently — I am basing this on a failed attempt to find a reference to the guy on Globo.com — expunged every piece of reporting he ever did from its online archives.

In Mexico, Televisa has gotten permission to run yak parlors — similar establishments to bingos — and reportedly plans to offer yak games on its interactive TV service. It competes with Jorge Hank Rhon, mayor of Tijuana and owner of the Grupo Caliente.

Welcome to Tijuana
Tequila, sexo, marijuana
Welcome to Tijuana
Con coyote no hay aduana

See also

I think Globo would like to do the same thing — and indeed, has gotten some slaps on the wrists over innovative ways of getting around the laws preventing this. See

Recentemente o governador do Rio de Janeiro defendeu a legalização dos jogos de azar, sustentando a hipocrisia de se considerar ilícitas atividades das quais participam pessoas comuns e honestas, lembrando que a arrecadação tributária aumentaria, enquanto a corrupção de agentes públicos acabaria.

Recently, the governor of Rio de Janeiro defended the legalization of games of chance, asserting the hypocrisy of considering activities in which common, honest persons take part to be illegal, and arguing that tax revenues would increase while the corruption of public agents would end.

Muitas pessoas bem intencionadas partilham desse entendimento. Essas pessoas, porém, têm uma visão superficial da complexa rede de crimes que envolve os caça-níqueis que inundam botecos e bingos da cidade em substituição ao jogo do bicho.

Many well-intentioned persons share this view, but these persons have only a superficial view of the complex network of crimes involving the “nickel-hunter” machines that are flooding bars and bingos in the city, replacing the jogo do bicho numbers game.

Essas máquinas faturam milhões de reais diários, sem qualquer controle das autoridades, faturamento assegurado por meio de corrupção de agentes públicos, homicídios, sonegação, lavagem de dinheiro e crimes eleitorais.

These machines bring in millions every day, without any oversight — a revenue stream guaranteed through corruption of public officials, homicides, tax evasion, money laundering, and electoral crimes.

A Lei Pelé autorizou, entre 1998 e 2002, o funcionamento dos bingos. Nem por isso os crimes afetos a essa atividade deixaram de ocorrer, bastando citar a execução do gerente de um bingo da zona sul, o desvio das verbas das entidades desportivas, licenças concedidas irregularmente e o contrabando de máquinas.

The Pelé law authorized bingos between 1998 and 2002. Even so, the crimes associated with this activity did not stop. One need only think of the execution of a bingo owner in the Zona Sul, the embezzlement of public money from sporting organizations, licenses granted in an irregular manner and the smuggling of machines.

Não por acaso a Lei nº 9.981/2000 veio a revogar os dispositivos da Lei Pelé que legalizavam os bingos.

It was not by accident that Law No. 9,981/2000 rescinded the provision of the Pelé Law that legalized bingos.

Ao contrário dos bingos, a utilização das máquinas eletrônicas jamais foi permitida, mesmo pela Lei Pelé, mas ainda assim foram raras as vezes em que autoridades combateram seu uso.

Unlike bingos, the use of electronic gambling machines was never permitted by law, even under the Pelé statute, but even so, it has only been on rare occasions that the authorities have acted against them.

Isso mostra a incapacidade dos Estados em fiscalizar o jogo e punir a criminalidade por ele gerada. A ação penal do Ministério Público Federal na Operação Gladiador, da Polícia Federal, acusou os integrantes de organizações criminosas ligadas à exploração de milhares de máquinas e alguns bingos,inclusive um comandante de batalhão, além de 18 policiais responsáveis por seis homicídios ocorridos durante a “guerra dos caça-níqueis”.

This shows that the states are incapable of overseeing gambling and punishing the crimes it generates. The case brought by the federal prosecutor in Operation Gladiator, accused members of criminal organizations tied to the exploitation of thousands of machines and some bingos, incluing a military police battalion commander, as well as 18 policemen responsible for six homicides during the “nickel-hunter wars.”

O mesmo cenário desnudou-se a partir da Operação Furacão, desta vez com o envolvimento de magistrados. O alto grau de infiltração no poder público pela corrupção acarreta não só o enriquecimento ilícito de agentes públicos, mas, o que é pior, “a privatização da polícia”, o comando das quadrilhas de dentro das prisões, o descrédito do povo nas instituições, a impunidade e a corrupção em detrimento da segurança pública.

The same scenario played out in Operation Hurricane, this time with the involvement of judges. The high degree of infiltration of the public adminstration by corruption implies not only the illegal self-enrichment of public official but, what is worse, the “privatization of the police,” the ability of gang leaders to run their businesses from inside the prisons, the undermining of public confidence in law enforcement, impunity and corruption to the detriment of public security.

Outro aspecto: a situação dos jogadores compulsivos que perdem fortunas que não têm. Estudo da National Gambling Impact Comission estimou que, em 1999, pelo menos 3,2 milhões de norte-americanos seriam jogadores patológicos. Como tratar essas vítimas e seus familiares no Brasil?

Another aspect: The situation of compulsive gamblers who lose fortunes they do not have. A study by the National Gambling Impact Commission estimated that in 1999, at least 3.2 million Americans were pathological gamblers. How would we treat such victims and their families in Brazil?

Uma das conclusões dessa Comissão foi de que os planos de saúde e o governo tinham o dever de providenciar tratamento para essas pessoas. Teriam o SUS e as operadoras de planos de saúde capacidade para arcar com mais essa demanda?

One of the conclusions of this Commission was that health plans and the government ought to provide treatment for such persons. But would our SUS and our private health plans be able to meet with this additional demand?

A discussão ideológica relativa ao jogo e a opção do Congresso Nacional sobre a legalização da atividade podem e devem ceder neste momento a outras prioridades. Podem porque o tema não urge na pauta nacional, já que 78,2 % da população é contra ou indiferente à legalização dos bingos, segundo pesquisa encomendada pela CPI dos bingos ao DataSenado.

The ideological discussion of gambling and the preference chosen by the National Congress regarding legalization can and should give way at this moment to other priorities. They can because the topic is not politically urgent, given that 78.2% of Brazilians are against the legalization of bingos, or indifferent to it, according to a survey conducted by DataSenado for the parliamentary commission of inquiry on bingos in the Senate.

E devem porque a punição aos infratores que matam, corrompem e são corrompidos é fundamental ao resgate da credibilidade das polícias e à sua própria subsistência como órgãos do Estado. Ou alguém acredita que diante da legalização e do suposto exaurimento da fonte de corrupção o mau policial se auto-regenerará?

And they ought to because punishing criminals who kill, corrupt and are corrupted is fundamental to recovering the credibility of police forces, and to their very survival as state agencies. Or does anyone really believe that if gambling is legalized, and the source of corruption supposedly eliminated, that the bad cop will reform himself?

Que ele não migrará para outra atividade clandestina, como as milícias ou o transporte ilegal, que de igual modo devem ser combatidos? Sem falar na imprescindível repressão exemplar aos “mercadores de sentença”, sem a qual a credibilidade do Judiciário não se sustentaria.

That he will not simply migrate to other illegal activities, such as militias or illegal transportation, which must combated as well? Not to mention the urgent need for exemplary punishment of those who operate in the “market for judicial verdicts,” without which the credibility of the judiciary cannot be sustained.

On the van wars in Rio, see

What murder?

A legalização pretendida só seria possível com a construção cuidadosa de um arcabouço normativo e institucional apto a regular, fiscalizar e punir, de forma rápida e severa, quem se afastar dos parâmetros estabelecidos pelo Estado. Isso significa não só uma mudança cuidadosa na legislação, de modo a não perdoar os autores dos delitos apontados, mas na própria reconstrução do aparelho estatal encarregado do seu cumprimento.

The legalization proposed would only be possible with the careful construction of a regulatory and institutional framework capable of controlling, overseeing and punishing, rapidly and severely, anyone breaking the rules laid down by the state. This implies not only a careful redrafting of the laws, in such a way as not to spare the authors of such crimes, but also a fundamental reconstruction of the state agencies in charge of enforcing these laws.

Liberar a jogatina para depois ver como fica seria consagrar a impunidade. O Brasil está preparado para essa mudança?

Legalizing gambling, only to discover that impunity has been perpetuated. Is Brazil ready for such a change?

Have you ever actually been to Tijuana?

I mean to spend time, not just to attend a burro show?

Read up on what it is actually like to live in Acapulco these days, outside of the Club Med travel brochures?

If you were me, would you want to live in a place like that? Have your nephews and nieces grow up around that sort of thing?

Look: we witnessed a murky attempt to set up a protection racket — replacing the current vigia franchise, which is weird enough — in this neighborhood a couple of years ago.

Which is why we take this issue so personally.

This here is some bad freaking clams, as we say in Brooklyn.

And Globo, it often seems, is its messenger:

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