Asserting the Presence of the State, One Step at a Time: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2008-2010

Richard Bennet

Beginning in the late 1980s, Rio de Janeiro suffered increasing urban violence as the drug trade moved south from the Caribbean.  The favelas, shantytowns and slums on the hillsides surrounding Brazil's second-largest city, saw a rise in both inter-gang violence and clashes between police and drug traffickers.  Innocent bystanders often died in the crossfire.  In 2007, working with the support of the governor, the state's secretary for public security, José Mariano Beltrame, and his colleagues tried a new approach.  Instead of repeated military-style interventions to oust the traffickers, Beltrame created the Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora  (UPP, or Peace Police Unit), to provide a continuous police presence and help extend the reach of the government into contested areas.  Beltrame's team rolled out the program on a pilot basis and identified communities where early success would boost the image of the government in the eyes of Rio's population.  This case study outlines the development of the new approach, the problems encountered in implementation, and some of the results from the pilot program's opening months.

Year of publication: 
Princeton Innovations for Successful Societies
Themes and sectors: 
Justice and security
Themes and sectors: 
Urban management
Case story length: 
12 pages

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