Private security for the poor in Brazil's favelas:
Startling transformations like Roquete Pinto's are increasingly visible across Rio, as for-profit "militias" made up of active and former police officers, private security guards, off-duty prison guards and firefighters evict drug gangs from slums where violence used to be out of control….
In this city of 6 million people, one of the world's most violent, "the police provide security for the rich" and "the militias are the security of the poor," said Marina Maggessi, a congresswoman and a former senior drug-control official. She has mixed feelings about the militias, saying they represent the "collapse of the state."
First gaining strength in 2003 as an alternative to ineffective, often corrupt police, the illegal security forces have mushroomed since late last year and now control about 90 of Rio's 600 "favelas," Maggessi said. Success in slums like Roquete Pinto, meanwhile, fuels their expansion into others.
In the past, the favelas' most prominent private alternative to the police have been the drug lords themselves. It would be interesting to hear how the transition from mafia justice to militia justice took place, and why the security companies have taken hold in some areas and not others.
Another question: The article describes a community leader who "refuses to acknowledge the existence of the militias, saying the cleanup is entirely the work of the police, even though there is no station in the slum, and not a single officer or patrol car was seen during two recent visits." So is this guy on bad terms with the local militia, or is he friendly but unwilling to discuss them with outsiders? Either way, there's an interesting story there, if some enterprising journalist in Brazil wants to ferret it out and tell it.