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24 Feb 2012

Different Voices

Saturdays 7-8am, repeated Sundays 6-7pm.  Different Voices is a time and a place to reflect on a changing Ireland and a changing world.

Documentary follows policing tactics addressing gang warfare in Rio de Janeiro

Feb 23rd, 2012, 2:31 pm

The film City of God shocked the world ten years ago, with images of heavily armed teenagers mindlessly killing one another at point blank range in housing projects outside Rio de Janeiro.  The film exposed a huge skeleton in Brasil’s closet, and was instrumental in getting authorities to sit up and do something.  Corrupt elements of Rio’s politic always earned on the top of the city’s violent underbelly, with bribes the norm.  But, there’s clean money coming into the city now, and it’s better to try to get rid of this violent image. Journalist and documentary maker, Sarah O’Sullivan from Galway, went to the favelas surrounding Rio to see what the reality is like there.

Sarah travelled to Rio de Janeiro to examine a new policing approach to gang warfare and drugs trafficking in the favelas that surround the city.  Rio de Janeiro is undergoing immense change at the moment, as city officials get ready to host the World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic Games two years later. Brasil is ready to shine out on the world stage, and is not willing to take the risk of the bad press that comes with heavily armed teenagers shooting each other up in the streets, as was brought to cinema screens ten years ago with the film City of God.  So, in preparation for the limelight, Rio is introducing pacifistic police units (UPPs) in certain favela communities (the ones that fringe touristic areas, or Olympic venues).

The favela communities surrounding Rio, and other cities in Brasil, have been neglected by state services for years.  Typically, police entered these areas shooting, hitting both their drugs trafficking targets, and other unlucky passers-by, and then they leave again. Police and politics in Rio de Janeiro are fraught with corruption, and many police officers lined their pockets with bribes for allowing drugs trafficking to continue unabated, while others extort cash from residents in return for so-called protection services.   These specially trained police units are permanently based within the favela community, with the aim of removing the territorial control of three rivalling drugs factions within the city.

According to local media, the UPP project has saved Rio from herself, they are a panacea for all that ails the mountainous paradise. Sarah O’Sullivan visited favelas in Rio, some with UPP, and others without, to discovered the real story of what is going on in the favelas. Are these cops as great as the papers would lead us to believe?  Do residents want cops on the doorstep?  And, a big question that everyone in Rio wants to know – will these projects remain after the games are over?

Rio will air on Saturday March 3rd from 7am-8am and is repeated on Sunday March 4th from 9am-10am.

Broadcast Details:
Rio is part of Newstalk’s Different Voices documentary series.
Rio was made by journalist Sarah O’Sullivan. Visit her blog here

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