More than 65% of police victims in Brazil last year were black

More than 65% of police victims in Brazil last year
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Brazilian police officers carry an injured person during a raid in Rio de Janerio, in an archive image.RICARDO MORAES (REUTERS)

Police violence in Brazil is a chronic problem, but it does not affect everyone equally. Black people, especially younger ones, are much more likely to be fatally shot. Last year, 65.7% of police victims were black, according to data from the Network of Security Observatories of the Center for Security and Citizenship Studies (Cesec).

This organization analyzed the data from the eight of the 21 Brazilian states in which it is present. In this small sample, the police killed 4,219 people, and of that total, 2,700 were considered black by police authorities. Put another way: the police kill one black person every four hours. The racial cut is important because it shows that fatality does not proportionally affect all racial groups. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, black people represent 54.4% of the population, but they are 87% of police victims. It is a dynamic that is repeated in all the states analyzed.

In Brazil, security responsibilities basically correspond to regional governments, which have the Military Police as their main tool to impose law and order, often based on brute force and abuses of all kinds. The majority of deaths occur within the framework of the so-called war on drugs, in operations against drug trafficking in favelas and neighborhoods on the outskirts of large cities.

The State of Bahia, in the northeast of the country, takes the cake. Known for its idyllic coconut palm beaches and historic cities like Salvador, the B side of this tourist corner of Brazil accounts for 1,465 deaths at the hands of the police, and 94.7% were black. The Cesec report emphasizes that police violence against the black population is the core of security policies and does not vary much depending on the color of each government.

Bahia has been in the hands of the Workers' Party (PT), the party of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, for 16 years, and the rates of police violence do not stop growing (300% more deaths in eight years), to the point that it has had the dubious honor of overtaking Rio and becoming the state with the most lethal police in Brazil.

The coordinator of Cesec, Pablo Nunes, attributed the disparity between the color of the police victims and the demographics to “structural racism” and society's tolerance towards the violence practiced against the black population. It is something normalized that is far from causing the commotion necessary to once and for all enter the political agenda. The specialist also criticized the difficulty in accessing this data. Many Brazilian states do not record the race of those killed by police. “The difficulty of being transparent with this data also reveals another side of racism, which is not being treated with due concern. If we do not have data to demonstrate the problemwe do not have problem, and if we do not have problem, there is no need to design public policies,” he lamented in statements to Agencia Brasil.

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