Brazil’s increased police presence in São Paulo’s worst neighborhoods is generally reported as a straightforward solution to the problem of gang violence. However, an alternative narrative is gaining ground — and it alleges that the police are not just doing due diligence in São Paulo, but committing wanton murders and human rights abuses against the city’s Black youth.
"What we are really witnessing is a genocide of poor, mostly black, youths," Frei David Santos, a Franciscan friar who heads the Educafro lobby group that upholds the rights of blacks and indigenous people, told AFP.
A November report from Amnesty International echoed Santos’ concerns, although stopping short of calling police action genocide. According to the watchdog, the Brazilian justice system has allowed crimes committed by police to go largely unchecked and has been negligent in ensuring public security.
"For many years there has been a high number of killings committed by police that are not being investigated," Amnesty's Brazil researcher Tim Cahill told BBC. "We believe that this has contributed not only to the corruption of the police but to the actual involvement of officers in criminal acts."
In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, a spike in violence last month claimed more than 300 lives in and around the capital from October.
Around the country, a study showed that twice as many Blacks were murdered between 2002 and 2010. Afro-Brazilians comprise 52 percent of Brazil’s 194 million residents.
In light of the killings, Brazilian rapper and activist Mano Brown has launched a campaign to convince São Paulo legislators to impeach Governor Geraldo Alckmin over a police campaign Brown claims specifically targets Black youth in poor areas.
Alckmin "is the governor who used deaths as an instrument of domination," the rapper said of the governor at an event titled, “2012: The genocide of the black youth.” "What we really need to do is an impeachment."
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(Photo: CLAUDIO CASSIANO//BAPRESS/ESTADAO CONTEUDO/DPA /LANDOV)