Join 3,503 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


City of Fear
December 13, 2011 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Prisoners in Brazil's prisons formed their own rules for governance, setting up a system much more effective than the government.
posted by reenum (18 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's what happens when you mix the political ones with the thugs; they tend to teach them new ways.
posted by Renoroc at 5:36 PM on December 13, 2011


Fascinating.

So you would bring your evidence to the Cleaner, and he would read it and say, ‘Okay, you can kill Varella. But I’ll tell you which day.’ Not just any day, because it might conflict with other plans, like a drug deal, another killing, or an attempted escape. The Cleaner would say, ‘Okay, you can do it on Friday morning.’

This is how I imagine Stringer Bell would have acted in prison.
posted by vidur at 5:38 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


People do not deny that the P.C.C. is a ruthless criminal enterprise occupied primarily with the narcotics trade. But they acknowledge its positive effects as well, not only in the prisons and for prisoners’ families, but in the communities at large, where the gang, however selfishly, has provided for a crude new order one step up from the chaos that preceded its arrival.

I'm hearing an echo of the Mafia apologists I've met here in New York "Yeah, they were sociopaths . . . but the neighborhood was safe, they had awesome fireworks displays . . ."
posted by jason's_planet at 5:59 PM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brazil has a long history of communities of escaped slaves operating beyond the law and government. The reason was, Brazil imported millions of Africans who found it easy to escape into the jungle and were never caught because it was so easy to hide in the Amazon. There were a few isolated cases in North America, such as in the Great Dismal Swamp in VA, but in Brazil it was on a scale hard to imagine, they had their own towns and governments, military, engaged in warfare with the legitimate governments, traded. Today, it's not surprising that tradition remains ingrained in the culture, a shadow government within a government.
posted by stbalbach at 6:03 PM on December 13, 2011


So let me get this straight. You are comparing the quilombos of Northern Brazil with the ruthless PCC of the current day south. Afro Brazilian history and current day organized crime have no resemblance no matter what makes sense in your head.
posted by LouieLoco at 6:16 PM on December 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


This article is so over dramatic and filled with hyperbole that I find it hard to take seriously.

I wish I could verbalize what makes me angry about it - I guess it is partly the fact that it continues to reinforce the stereotype that in large Brazilian cities, you basically dodge bullets and drug-traffickers at every turn. It is partly the author's desire to play up the event for the purpose of high drama - "City of Fear"? Really? Ugh. As a former paulistana (and a paulistana da gema, agora e pra sempre, and I was when this event took place) I am revolted by this attempt at making a show out of what 17 million people call a life.

Wait, just saw this article was from April of 2007. Huh? Nothing new has happened as far as I can tell, and the PCC is pretty far from making much news these days. The cops caught Nem, didn't you hear?
posted by msali at 6:34 PM on December 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I like the author (at least his books), but i must agree with msali. I spent time in Carandiru (photographing different stories), and was in SP during the attacks. "City of Fear"? Yes, maybe, sometimes, but not quite like in the article.

as for: "we didn’t kill a single innocent man. Everyone who was killed deserved to die for what he had done. The action was carefully planned.” I'm sure the family of the firefighter who was killed in a drive-by shooting while sitting in a chair near Luz during the attacks would disagree.
posted by ig at 6:49 PM on December 13, 2011


Get busy living or get busy setting up rules of governance.
posted by Fizz at 7:06 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Afro Brazilian history and current day organized crime have no resemblance

No right but the quilombos were organized criminals, no? It was a *justified* crime yes, because slavery was unjust. Modern organized crime is not justified it's a cancer, evil. That's the difference, a moral one. But cultural traditions that are good in one era can become evil in another. The quilombos have since become part of Brazilian culture, while the gangsters are outsiders and criminals, just as the quilombos once were, though not in the modern sense of being gangsters. That tradition, of outsider criminal organizations, I believe, is a part of Brazilian culture. But don't mix up the moral rights issue. I can point to American Right Wing radicals and say they are part of the American tradition of rebellion which made America what it was 200 years ago; that doesn't mean I'm saying current day Right wing radicals should be admired in any way. It's a cultural continuum that can manifest in positive and perverse ways, depending on historical context.
posted by stbalbach at 7:53 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brasil should really legalize drugs.
posted by delmoi at 7:58 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although a little hard to tell because of the subjective tone, the story seems to be basically an unnecessarily lengthy description of one system of evil being replaced with another system of evil, to which the author makes a pompous attempt to inject a bit of Robin Hood romance. Interesting nevertheless and maybe the future in a growing number of places.
posted by blue shadows at 9:01 PM on December 13, 2011


I hadn't realized that the PCC had such a different history from the Comando Vermelho, which arose when political prisoners were put in with hardened criminals during the dictatorship, providing the cellular structure and revolutionary rigor that enabled its rise as a criminal enterprise. This makes the PCC sound like a rather different creature; I wish I knew enough to know how accurate it is.

Regardless, Brazil has changed dramatically over the last six years, and this article is starting to get somewhat dated.
posted by Forktine at 9:01 PM on December 13, 2011


A government you say? Do they hold free and fair elections? Is there a peaceful transition of power? Cause without that, it might be effective, but it ain't no government.
posted by three blind mice at 2:12 AM on December 14, 2011


Brazil has a long history of communities of escaped slaves operating beyond the law and government.

Never heard of this before, and would love to read a thick FPP about it.

No right but the quilombos were organized criminals, no? It was a *justified* crime yes, because slavery was unjust. Modern organized crime is not justified it's a cancer, evil. That's the difference, a moral one.

I disagree - the war on drugs, police corruption and abuse of power, massive wealth inequalities - these things are all moral issues that deligitimize the "real" Brasilian state to me and lend legitimacy to such a counter-government.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:54 AM on December 14, 2011


>>Brazil has a long history of communities of escaped slaves operating beyond the law and government.

>Never heard of this before, and would love to read a thick FPP about it.

Well, not a thick fpp (sorry) but: they were called quilombos, the most famous one was Palmares.
posted by Tom-B at 4:38 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I wish I could verbalize what makes me angry about it

I know what makes me angry about it. "OMG crime!" is Brazil's "OMG terrorism!"; the main pretext for the cultivation of a culture of fear just like you have in the US, maybe worse. This article is an exact taste of the sensationalist tone of Brazilian media: WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!

So the attacks have a bit of 9/11 to them — yeah it was bad, but in the end it was more of a symbolic wound. Have a look at the numbers, 41 cops/prison guards + 17 prisioners + 79 "suspected criminals" + 4 civilians dead, this in a metropolitan area with 19—27 million inhabitants, depending on how you count (yeah I know 9/11 was 3000+ casualties, I'm talking about the spirit here. It's a different scale)

So yeah it was a bad vibe that day, prisioners were rioting everywhere. I was living in the center of SP, near Avenida Paulista. The day was pretty normal, but that night it was eerie, really empty and silent. I went for a walk and it was nothing special, more cops than usual on the street but nothing happened there, it all went down in the poor suburbs.

Anyway, so you have the culture of fear that's used to justify all kinds of control, "for your safety". Brazil stopped being a dictatorship in 1984, but police powers are pretty much the same. So we have a national ID card, cops do have the right to search you and your car at any time, cctv everywhere, mass automatic number plate recognition, every car entering and leaving the city is logged, authorities have the right to snoop in your bank account etc. The private sector loves this too, so you have to present the national ID to enter practically any commercial building, biometric ID is becoming commonplace etc. Middle-class condos are veritable bunkers, double entrance doors, bulletproof glass, cctv, etc. etc.

And at the same time it's all just security theatre. The root cause of all the attacks was just government corruption, conventional wisdom here says that they were retaliation for some kind of deal gone bad.

So that's what makes me angry about this article. It just parrots the paulistano right wing middle class spiel, without going deeper into its causes and consequences. It's just sensationalism. "City of Fear" my ass.
posted by Tom-B at 5:24 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


stbalbach:

the problem is you can be use that comparrison for many things. In many situations the church operates outside of the law and government but you aren't comparing them to the PCC or any organized crime rings.

Zumbi, Palmares, and all of the quilombos of brazil are a great deal to pride to afro-brazilian culture so any comparrison to the PCC is a huge insult. In the US it would be like comparing the underground railroad of Harriet Tubman to the underground tunnels in Tiajuana that smuggle drugs.

Also Quilombos were not only for the escaped enslaved Africans. They were also for freed enslaved people. Many of the enslaved africans won their freedoms in wars such as the war in Parana by fighing on the front lines and surviving. Most times with little to no weapons and armor. To this day people sing of their triumphs.

Dizeram para minha mulher parana
Capoeira me venceu paraana

There are a couple of ways to translate this, BUT, what many historians take from this line is Tell my woman/girlfriend that capoeira won my freedom. In the 1800's the tougher enslaved africans were called capoeiras as well as the way they fought. The term capoeira has since been strictly used for the art known as capoiera and capoeira angola. But this is the most famous line from the most famous capoeira song that is still sung in every school in the world. (i assume)
posted by LouieLoco at 8:36 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


A government you say? Do they hold free and fair elections? Is there a peaceful transition of power? Cause without that, it might be effective, but it ain't no government.
This has been true of almost no governments throughout history, and is probably still not true for governments governing billions of people.
posted by delmoi at 10:27 PM on December 14, 2011


« Older The grade distribution for all courses at UW-Madis...  |  Dramatic and unprecedented plu... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments