IISS publishes Strategic Comment on security dilemmas facing Rio de Janeiro authorities

IISS publishes Strategic Comment on security dilemmas facing Rio de Janeiro authorities

A recent spate of criminal attacks threatens to undermine the efforts of Rio’s authorities to pacify the city’s slums. They are contending with highly organised and versatile armed groups, willing and able to challenge state authority directly.

With less than a year to go until the 2016 Olympic Games, the urban pacification strategy being pursued by the authorities in the slums of Rio de Janeiro is being challenged by the renewed activities of organised criminal groups. Residents are increasingly concerned by the return of gunfights and a criminal presence in slums previously considered safe.

Background to the Strategy

The strategy was first implemented in 2008 and significantly expanded after October 2009, when Rio was announced as the host city of the 2016 Olympics. It combines a heavily armed security presence, consisting mainly of the Military Police force (the main law-enforcement body in the city of Rio), and peacebuilding through the provision of public services, better transport links, sanitation and other public goods. An important change under the programme was the permanent presence of law-enforcement authorities in the slums: previously, the focus had been on raids – rapid police incursions into gang-controlled slums in armoured vehicles.

The city and its suburbs, with a total of 11 million inhabitants, have seen high levels of criminal violence since the 1970s. At that time, organised criminal groups used tactics similar to those of leftist guerrillas then active against the military regime, and funded themselves through rising revenues from narcotics.

Read more about pacification of crime in Rio de Janiero.