Brazilian police staged a massive security operation in November to take over the Rocinha neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro as part of a broader effort to boost security prior to the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. In an email interview, Benjamin Penglase, an associate professor of anthropology at Loyola University Chicago, discussed Brazil’s internal security push.
WPR: What has Brazil's security policy historically been regarding Rocinha and other similar areas?
Benjamin Penglase: Favela neighborhoods such as Rocinha have generally seen only sporadic policing, often only in response to high-profile criminal incidents. The state’s absence allowed drug-trafficking organizations to attempt to legitimate themselves by claiming to provide safety and security. However, there have been important exceptions to this pattern. The policies pursued by the Rio state government are in part an expansion of projects in “community policing” that began in the 1990s. The current security policies also continue a militarized approach to public safety. It’s not by chance that some of the army units used to “pacify” favelas had been previously deployed in peacekeeping operations in Haiti.