By Mario Toer (for Safe Democracy)

Mario Toer explains how more than fifty years of denial has led to the current outbreak of violence and terror in San Pablo and Rio de Janeiro. In Toer‘s opinion, Brazil has one of the most polarized societies in the world, and so it is no wonder that given the age-old violence of the death squadrons that the poor and marginalized would create their own defense organizations. The process to end the violence will be long and arduous, but in the end the Brazilian government must find a way to reintegrate the marginalized back into society, take support away from the First Command of the Capital, and show Brazil‘s citizens that it is concerned about their health, education, and future.

Mario Toer is a professor of Sociology and Latin American Politics at the University of Buenos Aires.

THE TERROR AND VIOLENCE IN SAN PABLO AND RIO DE JANEIRO has already caused over half a thousand victims, making other cities in the region fear the spread of the conflict. But because solving the problem would be simply too difficult, Brazil’s politicians have chosen to ignore it, and the electoral campaign has continued on as if nothing were the matter.

The current violence has been extreme, deserving reactions of equal magnitude. But the only reactions have been complaints, faint and ineffective, made of the Federal Government by authorities of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira who controls San Pablo. The complaints attack the political limitations that the government has made on security, but go no further.

Other parties are using the attacks in order to garner public support. The Worker’s Party (PT) has blamed Geraldo Ackmin, Lula’s opposition in the campaign, of allowing the violence to spread. Ackmin was governor of San Pablo when the wave of violence first began.

There continues to be more and more evidence pointing to the deep seeded denial of the government. Instead of discussing real solutions to the problem, government debate has centered around whether cell phones and plasma screen TVs bought by the criminal organization Primeiro Comando Da Capital (PCC or First Command of the Capital) should be allowed into the new prisons that are being built. No one in government appears to recognize the true dimensions of the horror.

And so the PCC has continued gaining support among the outcasts of society. While continuing in its criminal activities of prison riots, prison breaks, drug trafficking, and terrorism, the PCC has also worked to better the difficult conditions of life in the favelas of San Pablo. They are considered by many of the poorest of the city to be saviors.

Brazilian society is one of the most polarized societies in the world between rich and poor. As the government sponsored death squadrons go throughout the city eliminating suspicious adolescents, it should be no wonder that the PCC has gained so much support among the misery stricken shantytowns of the country. With no one else to turn to for support, marginalized, impoverished and miserable, these poor sectors of society were forced to build their own organizations.

And for years government ignored the situation. But now the connection must finally be made between marginalization and delinquency, and adequate solutions must be devised.

Not long ago, someone who wanted to bolster Lula’s position in government during the dispute over Bolivian gas said that if the oil company Petrobras had an army and a soccer team it would be its own Nation-State.

The shantytowns of San Pablo and Rio de Janeiro do have armies and they do have soccer teams. The only difference is that they do not have representation in the United Nations, or at the World Cup in Germany. But with all of the support that they have gained, they are demanding to be heard.

Solving the crisis of violence will require an enormous amount of resources, imagination, and time on the part of the government. The solution is by no means easy. The PCC funds itself through drug trafficking and is therefore completely autonomous. Collusion between police officers, prison guards and the PCC has become a norm, and all judges in trials must judge their cases anonymously for fear of attack.

And so how do we get out of this mess?

When Lula found out about the violence in San Pablo, after the Fourth Summit of Leaders of Latin America in Vienna, he said that the violence was a direct consequence of fifty years of denial in government of the importance of the health and education of the country’s neediest.

Without a doubt, solving the problem will take a lot of time. How long will it take for the PCC to lose support throughout the country? And the Maras in Central America?

In my opinion we must allow as much time as necessary in order to make the marginalized and outcasts feel as if they form a part of society. Brazil will have to prove to its citizens that it truly cares about their health, their education, and their futures.

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