With public spending on police and social services collapsing amid Brazil’s worsening economic crisis, violent crime has crept back up in Rio de Janeiro, a city widely recognized for its favelas – urban hillside slums teeming with violence, drugs and prostitution, according to Bloomberg.
And ahead of an October election where President Michel Temer will try to win his first full term in office, the president is trying to send in the army to seize control of the city’s streets and restore order to an increasingly lawless town.
President Michel Temer issued a decree on Friday putting an Army general in charge of Rio’s security forces, including the state’s civilian police. The intervention, which requires congressional approval, will last until the end of the year, according to the decree.
“Our prisons will no longer be offices for thieves, our public squares party halls for organized crime,” Temer said after signing the decree.
“I know it’s an extreme measure but many times Brazil requires extreme measures to put things in order.”
But as is often the case with Brazilian politics, Temer has a plausible ulterior motive: By sending in the army, he might create enough of a distraction to avoid voting on an unpopular pension bill because Brazilian law conveniently prohibits making constitutional changes during times of military crisis.
Temer told Reuters that the intervention wouldn’t halt negotiations over pension reform or stop a vote on the plan, which is deeply unpopular with the country’s retirees, who stand to see their benefits cut.
Meanwhile, crime in the city has erased nearly a decade of progress, climbing back to its highest level since 2009. Temer’s decision is the first time the military has intervened in public affairs since the former military dictatorship ended in the mid-1980s and the country returned to democracy.
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