metropolitan area. Inter- after former New York or former state officials
estingly, a critical compo- mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in Rio de Janeiro’s secu-nent of the milícia’s power allowed several milícianos rity services.
hasbeentheir controlover to run for office as mem- The CPI has not only
informal collective trans- bers of his party. drawn stark attention to
portation. The city’s major Why would high-level political scandals of lead-buscompanieshavehistor- politicians work with erswhobenefitedfromthe
ically been reluctant to de- these groups? Maia, for one-dimensional drive for
liver good service to more example, bought into the law and order, but weak-distant areas. Local entre- idea that the milícias were ened some of the ideolog-preneurs began to develop local self-defense forces ical claims in the defense
unlicensed van services to protecting communities of milícias . Several bills
transport residents into against drug gangs with proposed in the legisla-downtown. Milícias fa- the support of local resi- ture will strengthen law
cilitated the payment of dents. Thepoliticalbenefit enforcement, in particu-bribes to high-ranking po- of such a stance may also lar the anti-milícia police
lice who could minimize have been hard to ignore. who have been fighting
inconvenience to drivers. Maia is said to be consid- theircorruptcounterparts.
The vans became a key ering a run for senator in Beyond the CPI, there are a
milícia profit center.
The report documented
a variety of other illegal activities, including forcing
businesses to pay for protection, taxing informal
real estate transactions
through legal and illegal
notary offices, controlling
the sale of cooking gas, and
managing and taxing wildcat electrical, water, cable,
Internet, sewage, and telephone services. Ironically,
there were indications that
the larger milícias have circa 1955: a typical shack in rio, in one of the slum areas,
direct involvement with or favelas, occupied by about one-third of rio’s population.
EvAnS/THrEE LIonS/GETTy ImAGES
The focus of the report, 2010, and support from handful of police and pros-however, was the impact the West Zone, Rio’s fast- ecutors workingactivelyto
of the milícias on politics. est-growing region, would bring the milícias to justice.
The CPI identified t wo be helpful. The CPI report Most notably, Claudio Fer-state deputies and five also implicated former gov- raz, the chief of Rio’s Civil
city councilmen as milícia- ernors Anthony Garotinho Police Organized Crime
nos. Electoral data showed (1998–2002) and Rosinha Unit, was promoted to the
that Marcelo Itagiba, the Garotinho (2002–2006), civil police’s highest ordi-former state secretary for noting that senior police nary rank for bravery in
public security, won elec- officials in their adminis- fighting the milícias.
tion to the Brazilian con- trations were ordered to The efforts have had
gress with substantial leave the milícias alone. mixed success. While
support from milícia -con- Beyond those in office at s o m e p o l i t i c i a n s c o n -
trolled areas. Corruption the time of the investiga- nected with the milícias
extended to every level tion, the CPI formally ac- have been driven from
of the state. Mayor Maia, cused 218 people of direct office, others remain ena law-and-order conser- involvement with milícias. trenched. The CPI has
vative who styled himself Of these, 88 were current had almost no effect on
the day-to-day activities
of milícias; the economic
logic of the city favors their
continued activity, and
there is little indication
that the police have gained
the upper hand.
To make matters worse
both Freixo and George
have been targeted for assassination. Their lives
are now circumscribed by
heavy security measures,
including a 24-hour security detail. Amnesty International has demanded
that the Brazilian government do more to protect
them. This situation does
not portend well for future
The extensive poverty
that many in Rio face reflects the inability of the
formal market to reach
consumers in these areas.
The failure of markets, and
effective state regulation
of markets, creates conditions in which illegal actors fill the vacuum by delivering informal services
that are protected by
milícias that also help to facilitate payoffs to powerful corrupt police. Only by
working to reduce state
corruption, improve policing and effectively extend
decent market services to
the growing population
in outlying parts of the
city will the government
be able to effectively confront this challenge.
Enrique Desmond Arias
is an assistant professor
of government at John Jay
College of Criminal Justice,
CUN Y, and a fellow at the
Bildner Center for Western
Hemisphere Studies at the
CUN Y Graduate Center.
americas quarterly 93