Brazil Following in the Footsteps of Mexico


By: Raúl Zibechi

This past February 16th, the government of Michel Temer handed over the security of Río de Janeiro to the armed forces.  From the police units to the firemen and the prisons, the security apparatus was handed over to be managed by the military.  The pretext, as always, is violence and organized crime; that their existence is enormously dangerous for the population.

Río is one of the most violent cities in the world.  In 2017, there were 6,731 deaths and 16 daily shootings with a minimum balance of two deaths in each one.  Nearly always blacks.  Of the 50 most violent cities in the world, 19 of them are in Brazil and 43 are in Latin America.  In parallel, Brazil is amongst the ten most unequal countries in the world, some of those also the most violent, like Haiti, Colombia, Honduras, Panamá and Mexico.

In the case of Río de Janerio, the action of the uniformed military personnel has a special characteristic: it is centered in the favelas, or directed against the young, poor and black population.  In the 750 favelas of Río, live more than 1.5 of the 6 million habitants of the city.  The military gather at the exits and photograph all of the people, asking them for documents to confirm their identities. Never has there been this type of control in a form so massive yet specific.

It is not the first time that the military has been put in charge of public order in Brazil.  In Río, the military intervened eleven times last year, in the context of the Guarantee of Law and Order (GLO) missions, a legislation that was applied during large events like the visit of the Pope and the World Cup.  Since 2008, on 14 occasions them military have taken on functions of the police.  However, it is now a military occupation that covers the entire state.

Many analysts have emphasized that intervention is destined to fail, since previous ones, even when punctual, didn’t achieve much.  Add that to the failure of the Pacifying Police Units (UPP), that in their moment were glorified as a grand solution to the problem of insecurity, installed in the favelas like local police.

In parallel, analysts remember the war against drugs in Mexico is a resounding failure, that for now has left more than 200,000 dead and 30,000 disappeared, while organized crime is far from having been defeated but has rather been strengthened.

However, I think that it should be noted these readings are partial, because in reality these interventions are extremely successful in reaching the underlying objective of the dominant classes and their governments: control and extermination of the potentially rebellious and non-conformable classes.  For this reason, there is movement toward the militarization of entire countries in Latin America, without touching inequality, which is the root cause of the violence.

I think that there are four reasons that support the assertion that we are facing extremely successful interventions, in Brazil, but also in Central America, Mexico and Colombia, to use the most evident.

The first is that he militarization of security manages to shield the state as the guarantor of the interests of the richest one present, the large multinationals, the armed state apparatus and the governments.  One wonders why it is necessary, in this historical period, to shield those sectors.  The response: because two/thirds of the population is with nothing, without social rights, caused by accumulation by dispossession/ the fourth world war.

The system gives nothing to the majority black population (51 percent in Brazil), Indigenous and mestizos.  Only poverty and terrible health, education and transport services.  They do not offer them dignified employment nor adequate pay, but rather push them toward underemployment and the so-called informal sector.  In the long run, one population that does not receive anything, or nearly nothing from the state, is brought to rebellion.  Thus, the response is militarization, work that is being successfully carried out, at least for now.

The second is that militarization on a macro scale is complemented by a more and more refined type of control, which appeals to new technologies to monitor up close and from inside communities that are considered dangerous.  It cannot be a coincidence that everywhere it is the poorest, those that have the potential to destabilize the system, that are being controlled in a more relentless manner.

An example.  When they “donated” roofing sheets for the houses in Chiapas, they made sure to paint them so that from above they could identify the non-Zapatista families.  The social policies praised by progressives, make up part of those modes of control that function as methods of countering resistance.

The third issue is that the double control, macro and micro, general and singular, is gripping societies everywhere.  In Europe there are fines or jail for those that leave the script.  In Latin America it is death and disappearance for those that rebel, or simply, for those that denounce and mobilize.  It is no longer only repression for those that rise up in arms, like in the 60’s and 70’s, but the entire population.  This mutation of modes of control, isolating and subjecting those that can become rebels, or disobedient, is one of the most notable changes that the system is applying in this period of chaos, to maintain capitalism and the domination of the one percent.

The fourth are questions.  What does it mean to govern when we are confronting forms of control that only accept the vote every four, five or six years?  What use is it to put all political effort into the polls if they are just frauds, and they mobilize the military in the streets, like what happened in Honduras?  I’m not saying that we don’t have to vote.  I’m wondering why.

It is important to continue reflecting on our strategies.  The state is a monstrous hydra at the service of the one percent.  That will not change if we take the helm of command, because at the top of the pyramid the same will continue with all the power to dispossess us when they see fit.

Translated from the original here: