As Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival came to an end, Brazilian President Michel Temer ordered the military to take control of public security in an effort to curb months of escalating violence. It is the first federal intervention in a state since Brazil’s return to democracy in the 1980’s.
Deadly violence has spiked in recent years. According to statistics from the Rio state government, there was an 8 percent increase in killings last year and a 26 percent increase since 2015. Violence in Rio is mainly centered on slums in the state’s metropolitan area, where powerful drug gangs and paramilitary militias battle for turf. However, daily shootouts have begun to affect the city’s richer and traditionally safer areas.
Carnival was no exception to the violence. The festivities, which brought more than 1.5 million tourists to Rio, were marred by mass robberies, looting, and shootouts between the police and drug gangs. Images of gangs of young men surrounding and robbing tourists were broadcast on national TV.
Brazil’s military leaders have expressed concern over the federal government’s use of the armed forces to handle outbreaks of violence around the country. General Eduardo Villas Bôas, the country’s top military commander recently said that the armed forces could not be expected to solve a security crisis rooted in longstanding problems that other agencies had failed to address.