I assume that currently, in the American media, the major, recent newsworthy events are the Petraeus scandal, Obama reelection, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. These are all extremely important happenings, but there are some pretty major things going on in the rest of the world, especially here in Sao Paulo. I don’t mean to underplay those other events, especially the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, which has affected the lives of so many people, but I think it is important that people know about the violence presently occurring in South America’s largest city.
Throughout this year, especially in the past two months, there has been an undeclared war between Sao Paulo’s military police, and the PCC, the local drug gang that runs the prisons and favelas in the city/state. About 90 police officers from Sao Paulo have been murdered this year, and every day reports come out about more stories of this kind. In the past two weeks alone, 140 people were killed in the metro area. It’s basically a combination of the film “Tropa de Elite” and the popular TV series “Prison Break,” but unfortunately, it is reality.
The ROTA, which is Sao Paulo’s Tropa de Elite, (Elite Squad), is trying to combat this issue. Two weeks ago, 500 of them invaded the favela near my house, Paraisopolis, which is one of the biggest slums in the city with 80,000 inhabitants. There, they arrested many of the gang members, as well as obtained a “hit” list of police officers. Additionally, they acquired 24,212 kilograms of cocaine, 254 kilograms of marijuana, and about 300 weapons.
This is an ongoing problem in the city, and President Dilma has agreed to send federal help, which she did previously during similar situations in Rio, but the Sao Paulo state government stubbornly continues to refuse, saying that they have it under control. According to a recent news report, 984 people have been killed in the first nine months of this year. I’m not sure I’d call that “under control.”
To put that into perspective, according to a news article I read a short time ago, in the past 11 years, 2,000 US soldiers have died in the war in Afghanistan. If that figure is wrong, please correct me. Those soldiers, and all of the soldiers defending the USA are true heroes, and their deaths are not meant to be minimalized at all here, but, it is alarming that almost 1,000 people have died in one city, in not even a year, and that it does not make global news. Even more disturbing, few changes seem to be made about it. Of course, the Brazilian government and police are working to solve the problem, and unfortunately, I’m no expert on Brazilian government or history, but it amazes me that this is a trend that has been going on for so long. I know that it goes beyond my comprehension and that it is part of a deep and complicated history of colonialism, corrupt governments, and dictatorships, as well as a current problem of poverty mixed with the global drug trade. Poverty and violence are tough issues, and take time to change. Many Brazilians dedicate their lives to improving this country, and it is frustrating and sad to see this happening, everyday waking up and seeing more massacres on the daily news.
There will be much more to come about this topic, as I’ve only just hit the top layer of an extremely intricate, and complex dilemma. However, in the end, we can’t live our lives in fear. We just have to be smart, and know that everything is in God’s hands.