Explaining Brazil #46: The rise of urban militias in Rio de Janeiro

On February 4, Justice Minister Sergio Moro presented his first bill after taking office. His anticrime plan, as the set of proposals was called, includes several measures against organized crime. And, for the first time, it singles out urban militias as one of the targets of the state. It may seem ludicrous, but urban armed militias were once well-regarded in Rio de Janeiro.

Made up of police officers, firefighters, and prison guards—read: professionals with the right to carry firearms—militias were originally thought to be a positive thing — they were society’s reaction to fill a void left by the state in gang-dominated favelas.

Many politicians defended these militias. And yes, including President Jair Bolsonaro.

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On this podcast

Alcysio Canette is a lawyer who lives in Rio de Janeiro. He hosts the podcast Lado B do Rio, a show that talks about the hidden side of Brazil’s wonderful city — which is “only wonderful to some.” To listen to his podcast, click here (in Portuguese).

Alba Zaluar is an anthropologist, with emphases in urban anthropology and in the anthropology of violence. In 1984, she obtained her Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She is working as an invited professor at the State University of Campinas and as a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she coordinates the Center for Research on Violence.

Gustavo Ribeiro has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics. His work has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets, including Veja, Época, Folha de São Paulo, Médiapart and Radio France Internationale. He is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Abril Prize for outstanding political journalism. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

This podcast was produced by Maria Martha Bruno. She is a journalist with 14 years of experience in politics, arts, and breaking news. She has collaborated with Al Jazeera, NBC, and CNN, among others, and worked as an international correspondent in Buenos Aires.

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