On December 30, General Eduardo Villas Bôas, who commands the Brazilian Army, said on Twitter that he is worried about the “constant employ of army interventions” in Brazilian states. This wasn’t an overstatement. Unable to ensure an efficient public safety system, Brazilian states have relied on the country’s Armed Forces to help fill a role not properly satisfied by the police. According to a study published by Estadão, the number of operations involving the military has tripled since 1990.
On the same day Villas Bôas asked for more actions to curb crime rates, the governor of Rio Grande do Norte, Robinson Faria, transferred control over the state’s law enforcement institutions to the Brazilian Army. After the police decided to go on strike, the state observed a wave of violence. Police were asking for better working conditions, as well as payment of their salaries – most haven’t received their November paychecks.
Between December 19 and 30, the local government registered 87 violent deaths (a rate 40 percent higher than average). During New Year’s Eve, however, with the army positioned in the state capital of Natal, non-lethal crimes were cut by 29 percent.
This was the second major wave of violence in the state since August 2016, when criminal gangs launched a series of attacks in Natal. It was a reaction to the government’s decision to jam cellular coverage in a local prison. Public transport came to a halt, curfews were imposed and shots were fired across the city. The federal government then sent 1,200 troops to contain the spread of violence.