By Jamie Busby - Staff Author
Jair Bolsonaro, former army captain and far-right leader, swept into power as Brazil's new President and was formerly sworn in on January 1st of this year.
He won the elections convincingly based on a "law and order" platform. In a country that in 2017 had around 64,000 murders, the highest murder rate in the world, this could be seen as welcome. The majority of these murders were at the end of a gun barrel with many being drug-related. Brazil is arguably as synonymous with drug gangs and gun violence as it is football and Samba.
However, Bolsonaro is also known to have an openly deep fondness for the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985. He is also somewhat "anti-democratic" and thinks nothing of making misogynistic and racist statements. Upon his swearing-in on January 1st, he declared that Brazil was now free and that he would "break the system".
He's made comments that have led to him facing charges in the past. Check these gems out;
- Stated that if he had a gay son he would be incapable of loving him and would "prefer that he die in an accident."
- Described a female in congress of being too ugly to be raped. "I’m not a rapist, but if I were, I wouldn’t rape her because she doesn’t deserve it."
- When asked what the repercussions would be if his son fell in love with a black woman, he replied “I don’t run that risk because my sons were very well educated.”
What a fucking diamond we have here eh!
And guess who are fans of each other? Him and Trump, God help us... In fact, Trump tweeted "the USA is with you!" immediately after his inauguration. I don't know about you but the thought of Bolsonaro joining forces with Trump and America at this time are troubling. Not to mention the fact that Bolsonaro is moving the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This geezer is clearly getting his and Brazil's feet firmly under the big-boys table.
America, Israel and now Brazil; A terrifying new triumvirate of terrorist nations?
So, on to the plans the wonderful Bolsonaro has for his troubled country. I will pick up on just 2 of many, the ones I consider the most crucial not only for this article but for Brazil in general.
Despite regularly topping the charts as the murder capital of the world, Bolsonaro is a huge advocate of civilian gun ownership. He suggests his election victory shows "The people decided in favour of buying guns and ammunition and we can’t deny what the people want at this moment.” Awww, bless him, he's truly the people's President... And he seems to believe that arming citizens is one way to fight illegal drug/gang/street crime in spite of the FACT that Brazilians have consistently called for stricter gun control over the years.
Perfect; Just let law-abiding people with no criminal record fight and die in the drug war for him! Bolsonaro is going to have a LOT of blood on his hands during his tenure. Drug traffickers and gangs have access to pretty much any weapons they want; lot's of innocent wannabe vigilantes or people simply feeling more confident in defending themselves are going to die at their hands. Gang members are notoriously savage.
There are conditions to this gun ownership, however government officials said these conditions were crafted to cover just about any citizen wanting a firearm. Basically, if you're over 25 with no criminal record and pass a psychological exam, you're sorted. Other laws that previously ruled certain people out have been "relaxed", meaning they too will be able to buy guns now. Like I'v already explicitly insinuated, this is a recipe for disaster.
The second idea I wish to highlight is regarding Police officers who kill gang members and criminals while on duty. He insists they should be decorated as heroes, almost regardless of the circumstances. Now I'm the first person to agree that if I was a cop and some scumbag drug-dealing gangster shot at me, the only response is to shoot back with every intention to kill. But Bolsonaro wants them shielded from prosecution, granted immunity if you will.
Not all killings by the authorities in Brazil are lawful, surprise surprise, with Brazil being a different kettle of fish to your average crime-plagued country. Shootouts in slums and Favelas are common place and the result? Dead police/army officers, dead gangsters and dead innocent bystanders, members of the public. Human rights organisations and of course the people who live in these areas are terrified of the potential of what the authorities could "get away with" in this respect.
Brazil is a known hotbed of corruption in every way, this could give authorities enough protection to do what they like even MORE. Police forces in Brazil are already the most lethal in the world.
Not to mention that soon, every man and their dog in every favela will be tooled-up ready to go to war. Cops, robbers and the public, all shooting at each other. It's silly yet this is the reality.
Gang-Bangers and their thoughts
Far from being mindless thugs, Brazilian drug gangs are highly organised. They have to be. Not only do they have the most ruthless Police and authorities on earth to contend with, but also rival gangs every bit as brutal as them. Life is cheap, murder is an everyday occurrence and we must look at the implications this will have on how they operate. They're also not stupid and are planning on how to counter whatever Bolsonaro throws at them because leaving "the game" is not an option. Drug gangs are a lifestyle, not necessarily a choice.
DISCLAIMER - I have absolutely NO sympathy or support for drug dealers or armed gangsters anywhere, they reap what they sow. But in this case, there will be huge social ramifications on the average person because of the proposed political and legal changes.
VICE News sent a reporter to Brazil to speak to the Police and then gang members about their contrasting lives. The reporter hooked up with a drug dealer who called himself "Johnny" from a gang called "Third Command" in Rio. Their main rivals are the "Red Command" and of course the Police at the moment.
The gang sell drugs out in the open in their territory, all while the area is patrolled by heavily armed gang members on foot and in cars. They are on the lookout for rivals and Police and prepared to kill at all times in defence of their extremely lucrative business.
These displays of power are to deter gang war, it's flexing to keep others away. What's most telling is how a car full of men with automatic weapons hanging out of the window barely gets a second glance from the general public. They have grown up with this madness all around them.
"Johnny" parks up and surveys his gang's territory, explaining to the reporter that "this is where we make our living and support our family." He adds that many of his gang and many of their rivals have been killed. I'v always wanted to ask one of these characters if they realised that there are other things to do except dealing drugs. The money from a "job" might not be great in these parts of the world but the life expectancy is MUCH higher. What's more, the rest of the favela seems to manage to survive, even in these harsh conditions of poverty and violence. Easily said from my relatively comfortable position but is that not a fair question? I think I know the answer anyway; It is what it is.
Moving on, "Johnny" explains how they've killed many rivals, slicing them and/or burning them,etc... Standard gang behaviour in this part of the world, maybe I'd be wise not to ask any of these people my question above in person! That thought is reinforced when he admits to personally killing 35 people. He also explains how the gangs are buying more and more weapons now, we're talking fully automatic rifles normally reserved for military use. Why? "Because war has increased. It's up."
Our VICE reporter then moves on to a Police impound unit where there is room after room of confiscated weapons. From handguns to .50 caliber sniper rifles, this place is literally a warehouse and everything taken is only from the past 2 years. She asks the accompanying Police chief why Rio is so violent. He responds by saying that it's due to lenient sentencing of offenders. For example, if a gang member shoots at Police he will receive a short jail term... as long as he misses or doesn't actually kill the cops! He believes this has led to a sense of impunity from the law, a year or so off the streets ain't so bad when you have that lovely, lucrative drug business to come back to.
The cold hard truth, which he fails to mention, is that Brazil is as bent as a banana. Much like Mexico, the gangs have many Police in their pocket and vice versa. They work together, the Police don't earn much money and the financial incentive the gangs can offer them is often too much to pass up. This also regularly leads to the Police effectively murdering drug dealers who maybe haven't coughed up. This get's chalked up to just another dead gang-banger.
Brazil and anywhere else with these levels of crime and violence always evolve due to corruption from top to bottom. Police have been known to kill other Police, not just in Brazil...
In his inauguration speech, Bolsonaro said "...it is also important to end ideologies that defend thugs and criminalise the Police..." - I think the powers-that-be have brought that upon themselves based upon the research I have seen over the years. I feel genuine sympathy for the Police over there, they're in a lose-lose situation and death is always nearby. But I don't think that the gangsters are defended in any way; neither does Bolsonaro I'm sure, but it makes for a good opening speech, bullshit or not.
Within 2 weeks of this, civilians were able to start obtaining and carrying weapons with relative ease. Furthermore, he is pushing for the actual military to be more and more involved in the favelas, giving them clearance to shoot on sight. And shoot to kill no doubt. But shoot who on sight? Anyone?! It's unclear. This is warmongering from the state. So what do the gangsters and drug dealers make of all this?
It would seem this is water off a duck's back, not the desired intention, though of course it's early days. Despite the increased threat of open warfare on the streets, the gangs have no intention of putting down their guns and quitting the gang life. On the contrary, it seems to be steeling them for what may come.
When "Johnny" the gangster is asked what he thinks of the new President, he comments that Bolsonaro wants to end drug trafficking without the understanding that it's impossible in this world. I have to agree with Johnny; while drugs remain illegal there will ALWAYS be an underworld all over the world. Politicians and those in power know this full well but conveniently forget it when discussing the issue. They clearly haven't worked out how to maximise profits from legalisation just yet... I'm sure they have their finest minds on it though, the Deep State are more than capable of anything, watch this space...
Sadly, in countries like Brazil, you are either a user of drugs like cocaine or you depend on drugs as a source of income i.e. you're a dealer. This is an socio-economic issue that has destroyed so many countries the world over, it cannot be solved by killing everyone involved.
I will end with the most telling exchange between the reporter and "Johnny". She tells him what he already knows, that Bolsonaro believes the cure for drug trafficking and associated crime is to go at it with even more guns, all of them blazing.
"Johnny"'s thoughts on that? "He's going to take Brazil into an urban war." He explains that as well as having to kill rivals, they'll now target the Police and presumably the military that Bolsonaro sends after them.
When asked if he fears this, the response is predictable. There is no fear, being in the drug gangs is all they know and all they do. To kill and die; "Die fighting" is their motto.
Do you think this is a show of bravado by "Johnny"? Again, I point you towards the example of Mexico and what the furtherance of the "War on Drugs" has taken them through. Plus there are always up-and-comers waiting to take the step up into the gang life. It's THIS self-propagating cycle that needs addressing!
I fully expect things to get worse in Brazil in respect to their drug and murder problem. But not in the sense "get worse before it get's better", just get worse. One side has nothing to lose, the other has EVERYTHING to kill for.
Sadly, under Bolsonaro I can only see a bloodbath looming, including many innocents. He's nothing but trouble.
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