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Gang violence in Brazil: Favelas Case Term Paper

This paper involves a description of the situation of gang violence in Brazil Rio de Janeiro Favelas. It also analyzes the growth of Favelas since 1980’s with a link to the debt crisis, economic transition and neo-liberalism reforms which have taken place in Brazil since then. The paper also brings forward the factors that have contributed to the rise of gang violence in Favelas.

It also involves a research on the response of the government to the gang violence. Additionally, it brings forward the issues that have risen as a result of failure within government institutions. Such failures include instability and lack of democracy in these government institutions.

These failures have made it hard to deal with the gang violence in the Favelas. This paper also proposes policies to be put in place to ensure that gang violence in Favelas is eradicated as a way of ensuring safe living in the shanty town (Perlman, 2009).

Favelas is one of the largest slum areas in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. The slum area has a population of about one million people which is 20% of the Rio de Janeiro population (Vanden & Gary, 2011). The inhabitants are mainly low income earners and job seekers who are new migrants into the city. There has been growing violence in the slum area which has largely been contributed by drug dealers.

The dealers have turned for refuge in the slums since they see the area as a safer place without government interruptions. The gangs recruit the slum dwellers into the drug business where they use them as sales and delivery men. The violence has risen as these rival drug dealers gangs fight for control over the area.

The violence has also resulted from the government forces, mainly the police, as they fight the drug dealers a situation which results into shoot outs between the two groups.

Gang violence in Rio Favelas is growing day by day. Since the period of 1980-1990 to today, Favelas has grown to be one of the major insecure places in Rio de Janeiro. This has been on the increase due to the increase in population and lack of employment mainly among the youths. The control of the area has mainly been by the drug cartels that use the area as a centre for business where their shipments are received.

The rival drug cartels engage in shoot outs where they leave many innocent residents dead and their homes destroyed. The gangs control the police in the area in such a way that, the police have become corrupt because of their low pay and they receive bribes from the drug dealers to let them do their business freely. The other government forces have not solved the violence caused by the drug dealers.

When the forces get into Favelas, they are in a mission to fight with drug dealers, but they end up killing and shooting innocent residents going about their daily businesses. According to Perlman (2009), the reason behind the gang violence can be attributed to what he calls ingredients.

The area has been discriminated by government agencies in that, there is no protection offered by the government in form of security. The discrimination is evident in the fact that, it took a series of decades for the Favelas to be included in the city maps.

The residents have been subject to police harassment and mistreatment because they are treated as suspects. The topography of the area makes it an ideal hiding place for the gangs and other criminals.

Neo-liberalism led to introduction of free trade, which led to, minimized trade restriction. Free trade meant goods would enter and leave Brazil without much hindrance. This led to importation and exportation of drugs by the drug cartels. The neoliberal policies have also led to rural urban migration, which results to high levels of unemployment and leads the youths into the drug business.

The presence of the high priced illegal commodity, the cocaine, has turned Favelas into a repackaging place. Favelas is used by the drug cartel for repackaging and redistribution of the drug to other parts of the world. This is due to the region’s proximity to the harbor. The cocaine causes rivalry among drug cartels as they fight to have large shares in the market.

The increased volume of cargo transit, which is as a result of liberalization and globalization, makes it easier for drug traffickers to hide materials in all modes of transport during import and export. This makes the Favelas’ residents vulnerable both to the forces and to the drug dealers.

The gang violence started way back in 1969 when the government placed political prisoners together in Ilha Grande prison. All the prisoners had a poor background and came from Favelas. They united to form a gang group but then government realized and separated them to different prisons where they further spread their gospel.

After they left prison, the prisoners formed a group called Commando Vermelho (Red command or CV). These gangs and individuals engage in wars for the control of gangs and the market.

The violence is characterized by use of sophisticated weaponry which has resulted from active arms trade. The gangs have gained access to highly rated weapons such as military based automatic and semiautomatic weapons which include AK47, MD2, FN FAL military assault rivals.

This has made the drug dealers better equipped than the police a factor that has worsened the fight against drugs and violence. The fight between the police and the gangs has led into the death of many innocent residents who get caught in the ambush (Perlman, 2009).

The return of democracy in Brazil led to the introduction of debt crisis management where the government required citizens to pay taxes. This in turn resulted into increased crime as a way of getting an immediate source of income among the poor slum dwellers. The gang’s access to drugs has been enabled by the introduction of neo-liberalism where trade was made free.

The countries boarders were opened to foreign traders a move that allowed entrance of harmful goods such as weapons. The violence has been so much in the Favelas that some residents have opted to flee the area for safety. The gangs have continued to harass the residents by forcefully recruiting them into the drug. This has increased fear among the residents who have no one to turn to for protection.

There are many factors which have led to the rise of the gang violence. Unemployment is one of the major causes of this violence. The largest numbers of youths who engage in this drug trafficking business do it because they do not have any other source of employment.

Discrimination on color basis has a major role to play in this case in such a way that, many of the Favelas residents are blacks, and hence are discriminated when it comes to employment. They are also discriminated because they come from Favelas where there is a lot of poverty.

According to Skidmore (2009), many young men do not engage gang violence because they want to, but because they have families to provide for and this seem to be the only source of income and employment.

Socioeconomic factors are also attributed to the violence in Rio’s Favelas. The residents see the gangs as saviors because they provide social services such as employment and security which the government fails to provide. The government has discriminated the Favelas when it comes to the provision of basis services.

This forces the residents to dig deep into their pockets to ensure they have such services that also include health services. The government also imposes high taxes on the citizens to sustain its budget and settle its international debt. With this, the unemployed turn to the drug cartels where they seek employment and have high salaries.

The social marginalization of the residents is another significant contributor to the violence. The residents are discriminated against because of their status and, therefore, to fight this discrimination they turn to drug business where they feel wanted and useful.

Additionally, the residents do not feel as a part of the country and government. As a form of rebellion and away to t back at the government, the residents have been found to engage in criminal acts such as drug trafficking. The government’s efforts to eradicate the criminal acts have in most times failed.

Poor access to education is another factor which has contributed to this violence. Many youths do not have access to quality education due to the high charges. This leads to a high number of school drop outs and in turn increases the unemployment level.

The drop outs as an alternative turn to drug cartels for employment which does not require any education. Others engage in the drug trafficking because education is expensive and they have to provide their children with quality education.

The government’s response to the violence has not been a success to a certain extent. The Government had implemented a multi-million project to upgrade and eradicate the slums as a response to the violence. This however, received a lot of opposition from residents who could not afford the houses the government was providing.

The government also suffered from limited funds, which so the collapse of the project while still in its first phase. The project was too expensive for the government to handle and the residents were not set to move to the new houses provided by the government. This meant the government had to think of a better way to solve the violence problem (Maria, 2003).

Over the years, the government has tried now and again to drive the residents out of the Favelas. This has led to a lot of opposition since they have nowhere to go and can not afford better houses. The residents cry for the government to provide security and better social amenities has not been heard.

The government has unveiled a project to provide better housing, sewerage system, healthcare and transport. The project also aims at providing security at four violence hotspots in the Favelas slum (Vanden & Gary, 2011).

The instability of government institutions has majorly contributed to this violence. The police accept bribes from the drug gangs to allow for the smooth operation of the gangs. This is as a result of poor pay meaning that they have o seek alternative means to acquire money. The military instead of providing the required security to the residents extort money from them and further threatens them with death.

The government institutions also prove to be ineffective in that, cocaine gains entrance into the country through the country’s borders and yet they have forces guarding their territory (Skidmore, 2009). The government itself has failed in proving security in such areas as Favelas by employing few police officers and other armed forces. In most cases, officers are posted to the areas government feel pertinent to them.

The government institutions have also discriminated such areas by not providing the required services to the residents. The implication in the government’s service provision is that, it serves only the wealthy and powerful.

The government forces in Favelas are poorly equipped as compared to the drug gangs who have money enough to purchase powerful weapons (Foweraker, Landman & Harvey, 2003). This implies that the forces are not in capacity to fight with the gangs. The government has failed in monitoring the trade in the region, hence an increased access to powerful weapons from the neighboring countries by the gangs.

There is also failure at the ports and other transport terminus as they do not take measures to eradicate drugs and weapons business. The government should strengthen its institutions so as to be able to fight the increased violence as well as drug trafficking (Maria, 1999).

The government limits the rights of the residents by failing to provide them with main necessities. This forces the residents to find other alternatives to the problem. The government’s failure to provide residents with the necessary services forces them to engage in illegal activities which will earn them money or provide the necessities.

The main threat to the residents is security and frequent harassment and mistreatment by the government forces. The restoration of democracy led to the introduction of liberalism which meant people were free to do trading (Foweraker et al., 2003).

This meant that goods would move in and out of the country. This free trade has led to entry of weapons and cocaine in the country, and has limited the government’s power to fight with illegal trades such as that of weapons and drugs (Maria, 2003).

In conclusion, gang violence has been a serious threat to the security of Favelas residents and the country as whole. The violence has mainly affected the innocent residents who are in no way gang members or drug dealers (Vanden & Gary, 2011). The violence has mainly increased due to the government’s failure; hence the government should work towards improvement of its policies towards Favelas.

It should works towards improvement of employment services. This should be done in such a way that there is fairness in selection when it comes to employment meaning there is no discrimination. This will help the youths from the slum areas to have a fair chance of getting into the job field (Perlman, 2009).

The government should also carry out reforms in the forces which will restrict them from harassing and mistreating innocent citizens and extorting money from them. The reforms should also include a pay rise to all forces, and the police to ensure that they have enough. This will in turn help in eradicating bribery and ensuring equal and effective service to all.

The government should increase the number of recruits into the forces to ensure that the police are enough in number to cater for the whole country. It should engage in talk with the gangs. The negotiations will reduce on the excessive force by both the gangs and government forces. This will also reduce on the deaths that arise from the shoot outs.

The government should also monitor all the goods that gain entry and that exit the country to reduce and eradicate the trade of illegal and harmful goods such as cocaine and weapons (Maria, 2003). Additionally, it should provide better services especially education which will help in dealing with the increased rate of school dropout cases among the youths.

This will ensure that no youths are dropping out of school due lack of school fees or lack of schools. It should also provide alternative housing to the residents of the Favelas. The houses should also be affordable.

The government should put all the recommendations in place so as to achieve success in the fight against drug dealers violence. This will ensure that no ill treatment is given innocent citizens (Richards, 2011). The government should revise its neoliberal policies to ensure that, no harmful products enter or leave the country. This will eliminate or reduce both drug trafficking and gang violence.


Foweraker, J. Landman, T., Harvey N. 2003. Governing Latin America. New York: Polity.

Maria, C. 1999. Human insecurity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Maria, C. 2003. Child of the dark. Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus. USA: Signet classics.

Perlman, J. 2009. Favela: Four year of living on the edge in Rio de Janeiro. New York: Oxford University Press.

Richards, D. 2011. Capital & Class: The political Economy of Neo-Liberal reforms in Latin America: Critical Appraisal. New York: Conference of Socialists.

Skidmore, T. 2009. Modern Latin America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Vanden, H. & Gary, P. 2011. Politics of the Latin America: the game power. New York: Oxford University Press.

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