In the Shadows: Brazil’s Urban Security Challenge

In the Shadows: Brazil’s Urban Security Challenge

In Brazil, organized crime is a difficult subject to tackle. This is at least in part because the dynamics of organized crime and violence in Brazil have been changing dramatically in recent years.

Historically, violence and crime have been synonymous with Rio de Janeiro’s favelas: marginal parts of the city where poor migrants settled, building their own homes piece by piece and outside the relative safety of urban services and regulation. Beginning in the early 1990s, images, stories and local and international headlines of poor, gun-toting young black men, often shirtless but otherwise wearing soccer jerseys, were ubiquitous. The favela-covered hillsides of this iconic city—the source of Brazil’s international image—were more or less off-limits to police and controlled by the city’s “big three” drug-trafficking organizations: the Comando Vermelho (Red Command), Amigos dos Amigos (ADA) and the Terceiro Comando (Third Command).

Headlines about hostage-taking on buses or in luxury hotels and other wealthy parts of the city, which circulated widely and whipped up fear, inevitably traced criminality back to the favelas, seen far and wide as the source of instability through organized violence and drug and arms trafficking. From the 1990s until just recently, such violence was public, visible and shocking—during that time, a visitor to almost any favela in the city would have been greeted with military-type assault weapons.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.