In Depth

Is Brazil returning to military rule?

Army forces to take control in Rio as gang crime rises

The Brazilian army is to take over security in Rio de Janeiro following a violent crime spree that marred the city’s famous carnival celebrations last week.

It is the “first intervention of the armed forces since Latin America’s largest country returned to democracy three decades ago”, following 21 years of military dictatorship, says the Financial Times.

Signing the decree on Friday, President Michel Temer admitted the move was “extreme”, but said organised crime has almost taken over Rio. “It is a metastasis that spreads around the country,” Temer said.

The measure, which will be in place until the end of the year, “is a response to growing demands ahead of the October general elections for a crackdown on crime and violence”, says Bloomberg.

Robberies and gunfights during the Rio Carnival, followed by a storm that killed four and caused further chaos, “have heightened a sense that the city is slipping out of control”, says The Guardian.

Although this will be the first time the army has taken full control of a Brazilian city’s security since the country introduced a new constitution in 1988, there was a military occupation of a Rio favela in 2014-15. 

The latest security move could affect the outcome of this year’s election, according to Robert Muggah, of security think-tank Igarape Institute. With Temer’s popularity in the single-digits, “a ‘tough on crime’ approach plays well with the public”, Muggah told the FT.

However, Mauricio Santoro, a political scientist at Rio de Janeiro State University, told the newspaper that the security situation could benefit rival candidate Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing politician and former army captain, who is running second in opinion polls.

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