InSight Crime translates and reprints parts of an interview Argentina’s Página 12 did recently with Tarso Genro, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, and former justice minister for Brazil’s government under Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, about the security strategy that Lula’s government developed.

The plan was at the center of a massive upheaval in Rio in recent weeks as the government began to occupy some of Rio’s most crime ridden neighborhoods in the north of the city. As Genro explains, the security plan relies equally on social programs as it does on policing. But some have said the police really are just creating a massive informant network.


Página 12: What was the new security paradigm?

Tarso Genro: A community policing concept — that police should occupy the space and coordinate their work with social programs in conflict zones.

Community policing then is more police?

It is a concept. We proposed that each state should integrate public safety cabinets with the presence of federal police, the traffic police, the military (under the state’s jurisdiction and not the armed forces), civilian police (in an investigative role) and political authorities of the state. They all had to create relationships and explain their common goals.

Only in the states?

Also in the municipalities. And it was the first time. We also thought about [how to integrate] social programs aimed specifically at training youth and women.


Don’t be afraid. I’m talking about training, not becoming police officers. They just have to find other young people who are influenced by traffickers and criminals in the neighborhood. If we don’t know who they are, we cannot help. And we want the government, mothers and their friends to be independent of one another. For the police, we had other plans. The federal government offered to fund social programs, get new weapons, equipment and a grant for training for police who want to increase their skills. Any training that increases their skills is rewarded with a 40 percent salary hike. Today, 200,000 police of all types have received scholarships [to do these trainings]. 

How many states are involved?

Eleven in the most important metropolitan regions. Rio de Janeiro was the forefront of the plan. The community policing concept was called Police Units for Peace. But the idea is the same.

What’s the key?

It is a project of territorial occupation. The previous system was to go in, kill and leave. The new system is that the government goes in, stays and connects with the community through social programs, investments in infrastructure, education and urbanization. In essence it’s: occupation of territory; high-level police actions; police maintain a permanent presence; and the expansion of social programs for youth…

Argentina’s experience shows that in the province of Buenos Aires, the [Police] Commissioners who were there many years often ended up being part of the mafia.

Organized crime co-opts police chiefs and people in the community whenever possible. It provides security, i.e. “protection,” as long as you obey, and money. In contrast, the Pronasci [the acronym for the security program] is based on the relationship between mothers who are trained and organized and who receive scholarships for this training, and the youth, who also receive scholarships.

Shouldn’t they spy for the police then?

No. We call them Women for Peace. They have no police powers or [do] surveillance. They only identify the youth at risk so they can be included in the social, educational and vocational training. Thus social networks are formed, and prosecutors can get access to the complaints filed by the locals. Drug trafficking, then, no longer rules that territory. The only one who can offer real security is the government.

The recent upheavals in Rio were tremendous. Were they also important [for the country]?

Very important. We always thought that the key area the government needed to take was the Complexo do Alemao, which was taken on Sunday, because it is connected to sixteen ‘favelas’ (shantytowns) and is strategically located in the north of the city.

But the drug market is the south, home to the middle class, along the shores.

Yes, it’s the biggest. Drug trafficking creates a strange structure of integration between poor, rich, and those beholden to the dealers. And I’m not talking only about addicts, but also those who use the drugs as part of their social lifestyle. Users and the rich must understand that doing drugs, even for “fun” or as part of a “lifestyle” is what fuels the violence. That’s why combating drug trafficking and the utilization of the youth of the ‘favelas’ has to reach these sectors as well…It’s necessary to criminally prosecution even those who buy small quantities. In fact they’re also responsible for the construction of the mafia’s power. From an adult who buys a small amount to a seventeen year-old kid, they are criminals, because it’s start of the chain of distribution…that led to this criminal situation in Rio.

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