FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT looks at the cracking down on crime in Rio

Foreign Correspondent
Source: ABC

Democrat or despot? Brazil’s new strongman is cracking down on rampant crime – but many fear the “Trump of the Tropics” is turning his country into a police state. Sally Sara reports.

“People want to break the system - and the great symbol to break the system was Bolsonaro.” Rodrigo Amorim, MP and friend of new President Bolsonaro.

Jair Bolsonaro vaulted to power on a pledge to smash corruption and endemic violent crime that sees around 60,000 Brazilians murdered each year, many in its tourist capital Rio, and to restore family values.

His message rang with Brazil’s burgeoning evangelicals and middle classes.

In Rio, reporter Sally Sara moves from wealthy gated communities to crime-infested favelas to explore why yet another democracy has turned to a hard-right absolutist leader…

“Brazil really needs someone who is more severe, more drastic.” Rachel, middle class single mother and victim of rape and robbery.

… and why his opponents live in dread.

“This is obviously a person who poses a danger to basic democratic principles, to the rule of law, to human rights.”  Glenn Greenwald, journalist and husband of left-wing MP.

When Bolsonaro lets police shoot to kill, his army of supporters love him for it.  It seems not to matter that the former soldier praises past military dictatorships, or that he trash-talks women, or that he is a homophobe.

But there was one killing that’s become a rallying point for those who oppose the new president.

Black, gay, favela-raised politician Marielle Franco was a fierce critic of a policing system that kills a reported 5000 people a year. 

A year ago she and her driver were gunned down by unknown assailants. Just this month, two ex-military police were arrested in connection with the killings.

“There are men, powerful, who killed her because they don’t accept people like us in politics”  David Miranda, gay left-wing politician.

In death, Marielle Franco looms as large as she did in life. As preparations get under way for the spectacular annual Carnaval, huge flags are unfurled bearing her image. She has become a heroine and galvanising figure for opponents of the new order.

She may inspire them, but she can’t protect them…

“Everybody is afraid of dying, everybody”  Sagat B, barber and musician in the favelas.


Note: This will be the last Foreign Correspondent in the current season. The program will return at 8 pm Tuesday July 30

The Battle for Rio airs on Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV at 8 pm Tuesday March 26 and on the ABC News Channel at 9.30 pm AEDT Saturday March 30 and 5.30 pm AEDT Sunday March 31; also on iview.