HomeNewsBriefPolitical Killings in Rio Raise Fears of Crime Infested Elections
BRIEF

Political Killings in Rio Raise Fears of Crime Infested Elections

BRAZIL / 12 SEP 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

The head of Brazil's federal election commission has warned that criminal groups are attempting to influence local politics in the country's second largest city through a combination of financial coercion and outright violence.

Gilmar Mendes, the president of Brazil's Superior Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral - TSE), expressed concern on September 8 about a series of politically motivated murders in the Rio de Janeiro area, as well as indications that criminal groups are funding local political campaigns.

"We worry that organized crime participates in the financing of elections and we have concern that organized crime is organized politically. This needs to be the object of concern of all authorities," Mendes said in comments reported by Brazil's state-owned news service EBC.

According to Rio's Civil Police, nearly a dozen politically motivated murders have occurred in the area in the past nine months, including several candidates running for office in municipal elections scheduled for October 2.

Mendes has asked the Federal Police to investigate the assassinations of politicians in the run-up to the elections. A number of the murders have been linked to criminal groups known as "milícias," or militias, involved in disputes over oil theft in Rio de Janeiro.

InSight Crime has previously reported on ties between militias -- vigilante organizations formed by former and current members of state security services, as well as civilians -- and politicians in the Rio area.

Despite their involvement in illicit activities like oil theft and extortion, state agents have at times cooperated with or given tacit support to the militias, viewing them as a "lesser evil" than drug trafficking gangs. This has furthered the militias control over many Rio neighborhoods, particularly in the West Zone where some militias have reportedly formed cooperative relationships with drug traffickers.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although Rio's flagship policing initiative, known as "pacification," has led to some improvements in citizen security, the series of recent political murders combined with Mendes' warnings about criminal proceeds financing elections indicate that militias and other criminal groups retain significant sway in the city.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Brazil Militias

Like other criminal groups across the Americas, Rio's militias appear to have realized that influence over local politics can serve as a valuable resource for continuing their criminal activities. As an anonymous source recently told El País, "When one speaks of politics, one speaks of power, one speaks of money. Militias do not fear the police, but they fear politics and they know that it is the only way to perpetuate themselves."

A number of experts have argued that breaking the political influence of criminal groups like militias will require more than simply arresting and prosecuting their members; the state must establish institutions that can provide security and basic goods and services to citizens in marginalized communities in order to avoid criminal groups gaining legitimacy by taking over these basic governance functions.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 24 JUN 2021

In stopping a European sailboat, Brazilian authorities have made a record seizure of marijuana resin, also known as hashish, revealing…

BRAZIL / 8 AUG 2012

With the expansion of Rio de Janeiro's innovative 'pacification' police program, the first rigorous study of the program's effectiveness offers…

BRAZIL / 13 SEP 2011

Brazilian authorities have arrested three military police officers suspected of the recent murder of a Rio de Janeiro judge, who…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.