Human Rights Watch: Police Brutality and Corruption in Brazil

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Graphic by: Sofia Safran ’18

From murdering civilians to planting fake evidence, corruption within Brazil’s police force has run rampant for years.

In the past few years, allegations of police brutality have spread throughout the U.S. From the shooting of Michael Brown to videos recently leaked showing a South Carolinian cop assaulting a female student, the U.S. is no stranger to excessive force. However, this problem isn’t isolated to simply the U.S. For years, Brazil has been plagued with violence, murder and corruption by police officers in numbers that would shock even Americans.

Just this September, a Brazilian cop was captured on film shooting 17-year-old Eduardo Felipe Santos Victor, in a favela, or slum, of Rio de Janeiro. The footage, taken by local residents, depicts graphic images of Victor taking his last breath, as the faces of three police officers peer down at him. Then, an officer grabs a gun, wipes it off and places it in Victor’s dead hands before firing it twice in the air.

Eye witness reports testified that Victor had been attempting to surrender. Victor is only one of far too many Brazilians who have died at the hands of their protectors.

The case of 10-year-old Eduardo de Jesus, who was shot in the head and killed this May in another favela of Rio de Janeiro, is strickingly similar. Jesus’ mother heard the gunshot and ran to find her son dead, with an officer at the scene of the incident. As in Victor’s murder, this was captured on video by surrounding neighbors.

Yet, while in other countries these images, captured and shared on social media, would have set off heated protests, in Brazil, they are met with nothing more than grim acceptance. Police corruption and a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality has become a part of life in Brazil and understandably so, when such incidents are so rampant and rarely investigated.

According to a report conducted by Brazil’s Forum of Public Security and the non-governmental organization, Open Society Foundations, police are responsible for an estimated 2,000 deaths each year in Brazil. Most of these deaths occur in or around major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Bahia. For a country whose population is concentrated in dense, urban areas, most Brazilians have been exposed to police brutality.

Brazilians have grown to accept the corruption deeply embedded within the country’s criminal justice system. Rarely are cases involving cops investigated, even those where civilians are dead at the scene of the crime. Officers avoid both investigation and prosecution by reporting that the death occurred due to the victim resisting authority or police officer acting in self-defense.

Many Brazilians are uncertain of how to address a problem perpetuated by those from within. Brazil’s high crime rates aggravate the issue, causing many people to actually support harsher police tactics as a method of protection. With authorities trying to reduce crime, particularly in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games, police brutality and corruption in Brazil will only be getting worse.

By: Stephanie Irvin-Taha ’18

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