As Prosperity Rises in Brazil’s Northeast, So Does Drug Violence

Source: New York Times

SALVADOR, Brazil — Jenilson Dos Santos Conceição, 20, lay face down on the rough concrete, his body twisted, sandals still on his feet, as the blood from his 14 bullet wounds stained the sloped alleyway.

A small crowd of residents watched dispassionately as a dozen police officers hovered around the young man’s lifeless body.

“He was followed until he was executed right here,” said Bruno Ferreira de Oliveira, a senior investigator. “They wanted to make sure he was dead.”

Mr. Conceição was the third person found murdered in the state of Bahia on that July day. By day’s end, 6 would die violently, and by month’s end 354 had been killed, the police said.

The geography of violence in Brazil has been turned on its head the past few years. In the southeast, home to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and many of the country’s most enduring stereotypes of shootouts and kidnappings, the murder rate actually dropped by 47 percent between 1999 and 2009, according to a study by José Maria Nóbrega, a political science professor at the Federal University of Campina Grande.

But here in the northeast, a poor region that benefited most from the wealth-transfer programs that former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva championed during his eight years in office, the murder rate nearly doubled in the same 10-year period, turning this area into the nation’s most violent, Dr. Nóbrega found.

Salvador, the region’s largest city, is one of Brazil’s biggest tourist draws, the gateway to some of the country’s most spectacular beaches. And like Rio, it is preparing to co-host the 2014 World Cup. So the authorities here are taking a page from Rio’s playbook, trying to grapple with the surge in violent crime by establishing permanent police units in violent areas frequented by drug traffickers.

The community police forces being installed here are similar to the “police pacification units” the Rio government has been using — to both great fanfare and controversy — since 2008 to stem drug violence there.

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Categories: Brazil

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