Lula invests almost 180 million dollars in the fight against violence in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro | International

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Scientific police agents during the removal of nine bodies in Bahia, last August.STRINGER (REUTERS)

With more than 47,000 deaths a year, Brazil's statistics on violence exceed those of many countries at war. The continuous trickle of deaths is like a fine rain that no longer bothers or attracts attention. The current federal government usually hides behind the fact that security powers are transferred to the states and that it has little room for maneuver, until from time to time there are exceptional spikes of violence that force it to intervene. This Monday the Ministry of Justice and Public Security presented a “plan to combat criminal organizations” endowed with 900 million reais (almost 180 million dollars). It comes after serious crises of violence in Rio de Janeiro and especially in Bahia, which has become the most dangerous state in the country.

On the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, the feeling is one of lack of control: just in the last week a regional representative suffered a lightning kidnapping, there were grenade explosions in a municipal bus to rob passengers and images came to light of drug traffickers training to the police clashes in broad daylight, in a compound next to a daycare center and five public schools. The controversial police operations deserve a separate chapter, which so far this year have caused the death of 11 children, three times as many as last year. The last was Heloísa dos Santos Silva, a three-year-old girl who died shot in the head. The police thought her family's car was stolen and fired without thinking.

Until recently, Rio had the dubious honor of having the most lethal police in the country, but it recently handed over the baton to Bahia, a state governed by the Workers' Party (PT) of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for 16 years. In this state on the northeastern coast, known for its idyllic coconut palm beaches and the colonial exuberance of its capital, Salvador, there is a perfect storm caused by the open war maintained by a dozen drug trafficking factions.

In September, police killed more than 60 people in their operations, but the count is unofficial and the real number could be higher. Last year, 1,464 people died at the hands of uniformed officers, more than all police forces in the United States. As specialists often warn, the bloodbath was of little use: every time a gang leader is killed, conflicts over succession arise that become infinite cycles of revenge between rivals.

Last week, the singer and composer Caetano Veloso, born in Bahia and living in Rio, delivered a letter to Pope Francis. He cited one by one the names of the minors who have lost their lives in Rio and noted that the so-called “war on drugs” has not achieved any of its objectives, while “the number of young people, mostly black, killed by bullets "It doesn't stop growing," he lamented. He ended with a “request for help.”

Against this background, the Government's plan does not present major innovations. The bulk of the money will go to states to renew weapons, vehicles or improve the salaries of agents. The Minister of Justice met last week with the Bolsonaro governor of Rio, Cláudio Castro, and accepted his requests: more resources to build maximum security prisons and mobilize the National Force to guarantee tranquility on the main access roads to the city. city. It is a police, military and fire department that is activated in specific emergency situations.

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Aside from the most urgent solutions, the plan aims to put into practice the single security system law, created in 2018 by then-president Michel Temer. The aim was to cut through the rigmarole of different corporations, agencies and powers and give some national cohesion to fight crime more efficiently. “Unlike what has happened with health and education policies, in which integration is at the core, that did not happen with security, unfortunately (…) it is about building something that never existed in Brazil,” admitted the Monday the minister.

On the PT's list of priorities, security has always been relegated to the fight against poverty or education. During the election campaign, Lula tiptoed around this chronic headache of Brazilians, even when she visited favelas plagued by violence. Already in the Government, the matter is even more delicate, because the most complex situation occurs in Bahia, his main electoral stronghold. His police truculence led to the departure of the PT's left-wing allies from the regional government, and threatens to wear down its progressive base nationally.

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