THE BLOG

The New Gang in Rio Slum Wear Uniform

21/07/2013 19:21 BST | Updated 18/09/2013 10:12 BST

To serve and protect, that's the vision we as commoners have been led to believe when we see a police uniform, while this might be the case in some countries, it has never been further than the truth in Brazil.

The fact is while the UPP and Military Police (Police Militar) feed a lie to the media that the pacification programme is working and winning the hearts and minds of the residents in the Favela da Rocinha, the reality on the ground is that one gang has been replaced by another in uniform.

The police presence in Rocinha is nothing more than a military style occupation that has been punishing the community since their arrival in November 2011.

The ideology of liberating the community from armed drug traffickers and giving it back to residents has been a load of old cobblers, because if it is they have a horrendous and strange way of going about it.

Their aggressive approach to all residents, their constant method of stop and search of everyone regardless of age or gender and their persistent walking around with their finger on the trigger button of their fancy M-16's creates a tense and fearful feeling amongst the overwhelmingly honest, hardworking people of Rocinha.

Their constant delaying and holding up of traffic to search buses carrying people to work, stopping Moto-taxis that are going about their daily life and the constant harassment of the young locals and discrimination that their all involved in crime, has had people preferring being under control of the traffickers

One heartbreaking scene I carry with me is that of an old man in his 50's being aggressively stopped and searched while his bag of fruit and vegetables, that he had probably worked all day to bring home to his family, being thrown to the ground.

What made it even more sickening was the fact that there was a table that the police could have emptied it on. But that would be giving the old man to much respect, because for the police in Rocinha it's all about humiliating the locals.

The saddest thing was the reaction of the poor guy, it was not one of aggression or abuse, but a look of defeat, embarrassment and humiliation in his eyes and acceptance of the situation in a "what can I do" look on his face.

This daily harassment and heavy-handed approach has been normality for the people of Rocinha since the police invasion. While it is understandable the police have a job to do, punishing the whole community is not the way to do it, especially if they want the locals support.

So far their approach has created more enemies than friends with their style of policing the community.