Rio de Janeiro to continue in hardline direction

The Brazilian presidential elections may be only at the half-way stage – with Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, not quite securing the 50% she needed to avoid a run-off, largely due to a late surge by the radical Green Party candidate, Maria Silva – but the results of the elections for Rio de Janeiro’s Governor were much clearer. The incumbent, Sergio Cabral, was easily re-elected with just over 66% of the vote. Second was, once again, a Green Party candidate, Fernando Gabeira, with almost 21%, followed by a slew of minor candidates.

Cabral was expected to win as he is supported by the growing middle classes who have done well due to the economic bouyancy of Rio in the last few years. However, it is by no means clear that this result will do much good for the poorest in society. Cabral, along with the Mayor Eduardo Paes, favours a hardline approach to the favelas and their inhabitants, favouring a law-enforcement and crime-control approach to a social one – what Paes calls the choque de ordem. In this sense he is out of step with the national government, however for the middle class of Rio reading their copies of O Globo behind the doors of their secured apartments, the favelas represent not an unfair city which is still unable to close the massive gap between the rich, growing ever richer, and the poor, but a spectre of criminal disorder and a source of fear

The upcoming mega-events, particularly the FIFA World Cup, 2014, and the Olympics in 2016, have only strengthened the feeling amongst the privileged that Rio must simply crack down on violence rather than dealing with the underlying problems (poverty and the international drugs and small arms trades) that fuel the violence. What this means in practice is ‘out of sight, out of mind’: walling off favelas, installing surveillance cameras, stopping the illegal street vending that gives many in the favelas some small hope of a livelihood, and demolishing high-profile new construction.

*For more on my work in Brazil and in Rio de Janeiro, see the entries from January to April last year…

Bigger than Brazil

So says a new IMS report on the surveillance market in Latin America, according to industry site, Surveillance Park.

Brazil’s emergence as an economic power means that there is increasing demand for surveillance both in individual applications and for larger infrastructure projects like the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. But Brazil already has what the report terms “an established eco-system of suppliers” so, in the face of this strong competition, foreign surveillance companies are advised to look elsewhere, particularly Argentina, Chile and Mexico, whose surveillance markets should provide “long-term double digit growth.

Watching Them Watching You

The city government of Rio de Janeiro has voted 46 to 3 in favour of installing video surveillance cameras inside all new police vehicles, and overridden the veto of the Governor, Sergio Cabral.

Cabral, who is otherwise all in favour of video surveillance, did everything he could to stop this law, but in vain. The reason that the pro-police governor is so against this particular law and order measure is that the cameras are supposed to be installed not simply to ‘protect’ police officers but also to prevent abuse of power, corrupt practice and police violence against suspects. This is a huge issue in Rio (and Brazil more generally), and we saw a good example of this recently with the inhumane actions by officers after the fatal assault on Evandro, the founder of Afro-Reggae.

However, I do wonder how officers will take this development, how the cameras will be used in practice, and how many of them will conveniently experience technical failures at important moments…

(Thanks to Paola Barreto Leblanc for the heads up)

Bizarre happenings in Rio de Janeiro

My collaborator, Paola Barreto Leblanc writes to me “Something really bizarre happened this week. In a public street in Rio’s center CCTVs from some buildings and a Bank – private circuits – caught a criminal action led by police officers [Policia Militar – PM, or Military Police, in fact]. Instead of helping a victim of an attack they rob the robbers!” The news story is available on youtube:

The thing that adds an extra layer of particularly bleak humour to this nasty event is that the name of the PM officer involved is capitão Bizarro (Captain Bizarre)… however, the really sad fact about the whole incident is that the victim was prominent social justice activist and founder of the internationally-renowned favela music group AfroReggae, Evandro João da Silva. He did a lot more good for the city and for the improvement of the lives of the urban poor than any gang-members or police officers ever did and he will be sorely missed. The PM chief, Mário Sérgio Duarte, who we interviewed back in April, is once again in the papers and on TV, apologizing. I noted at the time that Colonel Duarte seemed ‘profoundly indifferent’ to CCTV – I wonder if he will change his mind now and in what direction…

As Paola also writes to me, the nexus of CCTV in Rio is an intensely confusing one, mixing drug-gangs, corrupt police, the media, who like anywhere else seem to be living off the images from CCTV cameras without much in the way of respect for the victims. We are now starting to work together on a paper on these developments.

Surveillance cameras in the favelas (4): more from the other side

The mainstream Bazilian media outlet, O Globo, is reporting that Fabiano Atanázio da Silva (AKA ‘FB’ or ‘Urubu’), allegedly a leader of the Amigos dos Amigos (‘Friends of Friends’) on Morro de Macaros, who recently tried  to take control of the neighbouring favela, Morro São João, resulting in many deaths and even bringing down a police helicopter, had also installed a video surveillance system in his favela, which monitored the entrances of the favela and watched the movements of police and residents. So, it seems that it is clearly the traficante gangs who were first to install CCTV in the favelas of Rio for the purposes of helping to maintain a violent authority over the local area. The form of surveillance is what Bruno Latour perceptively called ‘oligoptic’ – a spatially limited vision but one which is very powerful within its limits. And of course, given the massive extent of private security and both legal and illegal surveillance equipment available in Brazil, it’s hardly surprising that gangs with disposable cash would invest in security like this. However, what is particularly interesting is that by doing the same thing and installing a video surveillance system in Santa Marta against the wishes of the local community, the military police are seen as effectively operating like a gang. This isn’t such a startling statement and was one which was quite frequently put to us by community representatives who we interviewed in the favelas of Rio earlier this year.

(thanks, again, to the invaluable Paola Barreto Leblanc for the information).