"Esperança é ouvir a melodia do futuro; fé é dançá-la" (Rubem Alves)
quinta-feira, 9 de junho de 2011
ALWAYS WITH US - Alagoas no "The Economist"
Murder in Brazil
Always with us
Violence continues, but in different places
Jun 9th 2011 | MACEIÓ | from the print edition
THE road from Maceió, the capital of Alagoas state, to its airport passes luxury-car showrooms and shops selling outsize Jacuzzis. In the central reservation, indigent families live under plastic sheeting. Even by the standards of Brazil’s north-east, Alagoas is scarred by poverty and extreme inequality. With 107 murders per 100,000 people, Maceió is also the most violent state capital in Brazil, just as, with 60 murders per 100,000, Alagoas is the country’s most violent state (see chart). It is a place of sugar and cattle, where the sugarcane cutters settle scores with fists and knives and the well-connected escape punishment by using contract killers instead.
Year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches and coral reefs mean tourism offers Alagoas’s best chance of development. But its status as Brazil’s crime capital puts that at risk. State officials are desperate to point out that Alagoans kill each other, not outsiders, and in slums, not beauty spots. Victims and murderers are often indistinguishable: unemployed, illiterate, drug-addicted young men, says Jardel Aderico, the state secretary for peace, whose job title represents an aspiration.
Brazil’s murder rate barely budged during the past decade, at around 26 per 100,000. But the geography of murder changed, notes Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz of the Instituto Sangari, a think-tank in São Paulo. In 1998 São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro were more violent than average; Alagoas was not. Better policing and economic growth have seen the murder rate fall by nearly two-thirds in São Paulo and two-fifths in Rio over the decade. Criminals squeezed out of long-held strongholds followed the money to areas of new industrial development and tourist destinations. Illegal logging and land grabs, together with new cross-border routes for guns and drugs, stoked crime in the Amazon. And Alagoas, its state government debt-ridden and police force weak, corrupt and often on strike, was at times close to lawless.
Things are starting to improve in Alagoas. The World Bank, which in 2009 lent the state $195m to stabilise its finances and improve its management, says the loan targets have been met. It is now working with the state on a plan to eradicate extreme poverty. Alagoas’s governor, Teotônio Vilela Filho, recently re-elected for a second term, has bought the police new cars and guns, and ended the practice of appointing police chiefs according to their political connections. Mr Aderico hopes that “peace lessons” in schools will create a less violent generation of Alagoans.
But in the short term the state’s best hope of moving down the murder rankings is for others to move up. Local politicians want to split Pará, a large Amazonian state, into three. If they succeed, Brazil’s map of violence will change once more. Marabá, which would become capital of south Pará, would inherit the title of murder capital and spare Maceió its shame.