Cablegate: Rio State Security Chief Optimistic About Combating Crime, Drugs

Published: Fri 9 Dec 2005 04:04 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
Summary -------
1. (SBU) State Secretary for Security Marcelo Itagiba told the Hyde CODEL on November 30 that police are implementing a number of programs to better combat crime and drug trafficking in violence-plagued Rio de Janeiro state. While drug-related crime remains a major problem, the state's murder rate has dropped -- in part due to an increase in the confiscation of illegal firearms. Itagiba, fluent in English and a close Mission contact, called on other state agencies, family, the media, schools and the church to do their part to combat widespread drug use and improve public security in Rio. Itagiba's determination seemed to impress the CODEL, but Rio's high crime rate continues to impact Consulate employees; just two weeks ago an FSN was carjacked at gunpoint while running errands before the Marine Ball. End Summary.
Assembling the Tools to Combat Crime ------------------------------------
2. (U) Itagiba briefed members of the Hyde CODEL on November 30 at the Marriott Hotel. Participants included Representatives Henry Hyde (R-IL), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Mel Watt (D-NC), Diane Watson (D-CA), and Luis Fortuno (R-PR). Also present were their staffers, the Charge, CG Atkins, RSO, Poloff and Conoff notetaker.
3. (SBU) Itagiba described a series of measures which are better positioning Rio's law enforcement community to fight the state's notoriously high crime rate. Over the past six years, the state's Military Police ("first responders" who prevent crime) and Civil Police (the investigative agency that solves non-Federal crimes) have augmented their staffs by at least 30 percent. More patrol cars, modernized precinct buildings, better training, more extensive coursework at universities and improved technology - including the installation of 220 video cameras across the city of Rio - are improving police capabilities and have produced tangible results, Itagiba said. Another contributing factor appears to be an increase in the seizure of illegal firearms; in 1995, police seized approximately 5,000 weapons, with 8,000 murders recorded in Rio state. To compare, in 2004 police captured approximately 15,000 firearms, but only 6,400 murders were recorded. Itagiba displayed a graph showing a correlation between the increase in the number of guns seized and a drop in the murder rate.
Laying Societal Problems On the Doorstep of Law Enforcement ------------------------------- --------------------------
4. (SBU) Responsibility for the violence plaguing Rio should not fall on the doorstep of law enforcement, Itagiba said. Many crimes stem from personal or business conflicts and are thus difficult for the police to prevent. Families, schools and the church must do their part to provide guidance. Similarly, the private sector has responsibility to prevent acts of "delinquency"; a nightclub, for example, should provide security and prevent drinking-related violence from spilling into the street. The Brazilian government shares the blame too: haphazard planning and urban overcrowding have led to a 30% increase in the number of slums in Rio, while inadequate public transportation has forced low-paid construction workers to cram into far-flung shantytowns to build the middle -class high rises burgeoning in the suburbs. In conditions of despair, Itagiba said, many people lose their perspective and commit crimes.
Widespread Drug Use and Trafficking Makes Matters Worse ------------------- ---------------------------------
5. (SBU) A significant portion of Rio crime stems from drug trafficking. Criminal gangs steal money and cars to raise funds for traffickers to buy drugs from outside Rio state. The drugs are then trafficked elsewhere or sold domestically, in the hillside slums (favelas) interspersed throughout Rio. Domestic consumption is a major problem as well. Ten percent of the state's population, or 1.4 million people, use illegal drugs - often in broad daylight in public spaces, such as in Ipanema, home to many Consulate employees. Interestingly, Rio state does not produce its own drugs or guns; these are imported from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Representatives from the major drug gangs in these countries operate in Rio, Itagiba said.
Comment ------------
6. (SBU) CODEL members were clearly impressed with Itagiba's claim that 78 drug lords have been arrested or killed under his watch (since 1999), with only one major player still at-large. Nevertheless, drug-related crime in Rio continues to dominate the headlines and impact the lives of Consulate employees. Three weeks ago, an FSN was car- jacked at gunpoint in a middle-class neighborhood as she was returning a DVD at a store. Shortly before that, 15 gunmen took over an apartment building two doors down from the residence of the Assistant RSO, seeking to rob the apartments inside. Forty people were held hostage for three hours, including five Americans. A month ago, an attempted apartment invasion was thwarted by police a block away frm the CG's residence. Given the size of the internal drug market and lax law enforcement regarding consumption, trafficking and related crime remain huge problems here. ATKINS
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