Thursday, May 18, 2006

Violence in Sao Paulo

Collage by Coming Anarchy

This past week has been the scene of great violence in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The events have traits of the past and show a possible future for America and the rest of the world.

Coming Anarchy has a great rundown of the genesis of the violence but here is the jest of the problem. The Brazilian government has begun a crackdown against the First Command of Capital (PCC), a violent gang that uses money raised from crime and member dues to bribe police, judges, and politicians. When police were transporting several leaders to jail the PCC launched a raid against police stations and killed several cops. The violence is spinning out of control as over 150 people have been killed as police and the PCC turn one of the largest cities in the world into a battleground.

Sao Paulo is turning into a contested ungoverned space as defined by Francis Galgano in his paper Geographical Analysis of Ungoverned Spaces. The PCC wants to create a new network of rules while the civilian police are fighting to preserve order. Both groups are undersized and know much about each other; this limits them to a long and bloody stalemate until one side gets tired. As history has shown with the New York draft riot, Tulsa race riot, and the race riots of the 1960s it takes an outside force to come in and end the violence. However, the governor of Sao Paulo has turned down an offer of military aid from the president.

So what will happen in Sao Paulo? I am convinced Brazil will not let the PCC establish an open network so eventually the PCC will be beat back but the question will be how. It is unlikely that the PCC will back down from the state police so the two more likely outcomes will be either the governor will let the military in after the violence gets even worse or police will set up their own paramilitary group like Los Pepes or Sombra Negra. Expect a lot of people dying either way.

There are lessons for the future from Sao Paulo. America has been paying lip-service to problems caused by groups like MS-13 who are creating their own ungoverned places and Europe faces organized groups of Islamists who wish wage jihad against the West. These countries need to realize the problem they face or risk having Sao Paulos in Los Angeles, Paris, and London.

Category: Geopolitics


phil jones said...

I think you may have misread part of that Coming Anarchy story. It's not that the PCC get money *from* union activities. It's a "protection" organization, and people pay dues to it "like" a trade-union.

Favelas have long been contested ungoverned spaces. It's beyond wondering whether Brazil will allow such things to exist. It has done for a while.

The ultimate problem is the sheer degree of economic inequality in Brazil. The favelas are huge, unbelievably poor (or at least, outside the legal economy). The drug-traffic economy is far more important to them than the legitimate one.

In addition, the police receive a very low salary and so are often corrupt or at least equally loyal to other paymasters. And, worse, they already *do* act as paramilitary groups. This feud between the police and gangs has been escalating for decades.

No one knows what's to be done. I've met people who advocate expanding the police by two orders of magnitude. (Hard to fund.) The army did occupy the favelas in Rio earlier this year, when a consignment of guns were stolen.

But frankly they couldn't *stay* occupying the favelas forever. Ultimately, martial law is no substitute for healthy social and economic urban fabric. And that's what's missing. The only real solution is to reconstruct that social fabric.

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks for the correction. I'll fix that ASAP.

I agree that there needs to be a solid stable base for a society to build. What needs to be done is military intervention to stop the immediate violence then there needs to be efforts to build the society.