Brazil to militarize airports and ports in crackdown on organised crime

2023 11 01T201706Z 2 LYNXMPEJA01PQ RTROPTP 4 BRAZIL CRIME scaled
Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva looks on during a press conference at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, November 1, 2023. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva declared this week the deployment of the armed forces to reinforce security at vital airports, ports, and international borders in a concerted effort to combat organised crime in Latin America’s largest nation. This decision follows recent actions by a criminal gang, which, in an apparent retaliation for the killing of their leader’s nephew by Brazilian police, set fire to numerous buses in Rio de Janeiro.

Expressing the severity of the situation, President Lula remarked at a Brasilia news conference following the decree Brazil is facing a very serious situation. The federal government’s participation aims to support the state governments in eliminating organised crime.

The plan involves mobilizing 3,600 military members to intensify patrols and surveillance at international airports in Rio and Sao Paulo, along with two maritime ports in Rio and Sao Paulo’s bustling Santos port, a significant hub for cocaine export in Latin America. This deployment forms part of a broader government strategy, including an increase in federal police presence in Rio, fostering collaboration among law enforcement agencies, and enhancing investments in cutting-edge intelligence technology.

Recent announcements by state and federal authorities pointed to the intent to weaken militias by targeting their financial resources. However, Brazil’s deep-rooted public security issues require a comprehensive, long-term plan for effective results.

Brazil’s Justice Minister Flávio Dino asserted that the measures are part of a plan in development since Lula assumed office on January 1, following months of consultations with law enforcement, local authorities, and public security experts.

The recent surge of turmoil in Rio commenced on October 5 when three doctors were mistakenly targeted and killed in a beachside bar. The influential militias in Rio, originating in the 1990s, initially comprised ex-police officers, firefighters, and military personnel aiming to combat lawlessness. However, they later transitioned into charging locals for protection and engaging in drug trafficking.

The intensified violence has prompted heightened pressure on both state and federal authorities in Brazil to demonstrate a solid plan and effective control over public security in Rio. On October 9, a few days after the doctors’ killing, the Rio state government dispatched hundreds of police officers to three expansive, low-income neighbourhoods. Then, on October 23, Rio’s police killed Matheus da Silva Rezende, also known as Faustão, a member and nephew of a militia leader. In a defiant response, criminals set fire to at least 35 buses.

Subsequently, on Wednesday, federal police in Rio reported the arrest of another militia leader and key members of another criminal gang, accompanied by the seizure of luxurious, bullet-resistant vehicles, property, and cash.

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