Poor black young people are victims of violence in Brazil

BRASILIA, Brazil - Poor and black young people are the main victims of violence in Brazil, with a rate of 27.8 killings per 100,000 inhabitants in 2001, which “places Brazil among the most violent countries in the world”, claims the NGO Social Watch.

Violent death

“Brazil is not at war, but the indicators of violent death in the main urban centres are similar to those in countries that are involved in armed conflict”, states this international NGO in the Brazilian chapter of its global report 2004.

The 2004 Report of the Observatório da Cidadania --Fear and Want, Obstacles to Human Security--, which assess the situation of 50 countries in its 130 pages, states that in Brazil “the risk of being murdered is 86.7 per cent higher for blacks than for whites”.

“In Brazil, when we study specific poor urban areas and focus on youth, we find rates of 230 killings per 100,000 inhabitants. According to some experts, what is taking place is the genocide of young people, black youths in particular.”

The report points out that “homicide rates among blacks is higher in all cities, and are mainly concentrated among young people between 14 and 19 years old”. The document adds that “this is the result of a rapid increase in criminality and an unlimited access to firearms.”

To counteract this situation, last 15 July the government of President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva launched a disarmament campaign which up to now has been able to recover over 180,000 firearms. Authorities pay between 100 and 300 reales (34 y 103 dollars) for each firearm.

An important step was taken in 2003, says the report, when the National Congress passed the Disarmament Statute, which “provides for a national plebiscite in 2005 so that the population as a whole can decide whether the sale of firearms should be prohibited throughout the whole country.”

Who is to blame for this situation?

Social Watch’s analysis  ascribes the increase of violence that affect mainly young people between 15 and 24 years living in favelas (shanty towns), to the drug traffic and the violent police repression.

“The rapid increase in violent deaths in favelas and poor neighbourhoods can be explained by a combination of factors: the appearance of cocaine in urban centres like Rio and São Paulo in the 1980s and its high profitability, the increasingly violent and repressive behaviour of the police, the fights between rival gangs for control of the key distribution and sales points, and the use of military firearms.”

The victims are mostly poor black youths, and most of the crimes occur in favelas and in peri-urban areas, adds the report.

“In these areas, drug trafficking has an extremely powerful attraction for children and adolescents who find few opportunities for employment or for generating income, and whose prospects for the future are fragile”, says the report, and deplores the fact that “Brazilian national and local government and civil society were slow to wake up to the problem of public safety”.

As a result of the lack of investment or rational public policies, the majority of the police forces in the country degenerated and became violent and inefficient.
Through mechanisms that operated on various levels, organised crime involved in arms and drugs corrupted large sectors of the police forces, from the lowest ranks all the way up to the top”

The report welcomes the initiative of the Workers’ Party national government regarding the preparation of a National Security Programme, and calls upon civil society “to pressure federal and local government to recognise the urgency of the problem of violence”.