Society

Under Bolsonaro, Brazil’s highway police prefers force over human rights

Once celebrated for its work in the field of human rights, Brazil's Federal Highway Police is now taking a more hands-on — and violent — role, as shown by two recent scandals

police PRF agents during shoot training. Photo: Rubens Cavallari/Folhapress
PRF agents during shoot training. Photo: Rubens Cavallari/Folhapress

A deadly police raid in the Rio de Janeiro favela of Vila Cruzeiro at the end of May resulted in 23 deaths — the second-most lethal law enforcement operation in the city’s history. The incursion drew outrage from human rights groups and a significant portion of the Brazilian population, but one curious aspect of the raid caught the attention of keener observers.

Amid the footage of heavily armed law enforcement marching through Vila Cruzeiro’s alleys, a number of officers were seen wearing uniforms with the letters PRF emblazoned on the back. 

The PRF, or Polícia Rodoviária Federal, is Brazil’s...

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