Transnational organized crime is often manifested by prevalent territorial disputes between rival criminal factions at local levels. Rio de Janeiro--considered one of the most violent of Brazilian cities--has linked lack of security in more than 1,000 of its favelas to a rise in drug trafficking on a regional and cross-border scale. Nonetheless, this city has attracted considerable international attention and investment in the wake of being chosen as host of the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Since 2008, Rio de Janeiro has launched innovative efforts to reduce violence and change the city's security perceptions--mostly through community policing mechanisms--by establishing more than twenty permanent Pacifying Police Units, called Unidade de Policia Pacificadora (UPP), in its most entrenched communities. Recent progress in reducing Rio de Janeiro's crime rates has partially been attributed to the UPP's successful implementation. Col. Robson Rodrigues da Silva, current Chief of Staff of Administration of the State Military Police of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ) and former Coordinating Commander of the UPP, explains that the main goal of this program has been to gradually replace repressive action with social preventive measures. Laura Vargas, of the Journal, conducted the following interview with Col. Robson Rodrigues da Silva.
Journal of International Affairs: From four experience as former commanding officer of the Units of Pacifying Police (UPP) in Brazil, what can you say about the influence of international organized crime in Rio de Janeiro? In what way do you see an issue of global dimension reflected at the city level?
Colonel Robson Rodrigues da Silva: The problem of drug trafficking in Rio de Janeiro is a reflection of transnational criminality. This presents a high impact for the city, because it is a destination of consumption of illegal drugs, and for the country, since it is an important transit route to other countries. Brazil has long extensions of borders shared with ten countries in South America that make it difficult to properly secure. There is an important fact to be stated: because of consumption, trafficking is unlikely to stop. Now, the question is how do we deal with this problem?
The way in which we have dealt with this problem traditionally has been the product of a foreign policy--born from the concept of "a war on drugs"--which follows the discourse of the United States during the time of Nixon and has spread to many other nations. It is a conservative stance with strong connotations. This approach to the problem has not had the expected results. We have seen an increase in deaths caused by firearms and their proliferation, especially in areas of the city characterized by high informality (favelas), where other factors come together in making them propense to high levels of criminal activity and territorial control which contribute to the proliferation of the internal...