Country Risk

Military deployment in Brazil’s Rio likely to contain shootings around slums and cargo theft on main highways

27 February 2018

Key Points

  • At least 3,000 troops will be deployed in Rio city around favelas and crime hotspots, such as Chapadão and Pedreira, Cordovil, São João do Meriti, and São Gonçalo until 31 December 2018.
  • The measure is likely to contain an increase in murders and shootings between gangs and with the police, as well as cargo theft in Rodovia Dutra and Avenida Brasil.
  • The measure will be unsustainable if not accompanied by greater budget allocation, and potential institutional confrontations between the military and the police, as well as legal challenges related to soldiers’ powers of search and arrest warrants, could potentially reduce the effectiveness of the operation.


On 21 February, the Brazilian Federal Congress approved a presidential decree placing the army in charge of public security in Rio de Janeiro state following a sharp increase in murders and robberies since the previous year.BRAZIL-FAVELA-OPERATIONBRAZIL-FAVELA-OPERATION

The measure represents the first time that the federal government has ordered an intervention on public security in one of the states, and follows a previous ad hoc military deployment in the city. The move comes as crime rates have risen sharply in Rio since early 2017 – mainly homicides, robberies, and police officer deaths – and following a particularly violent Carnival in mid-February, with at least three thefts per hour reported by tourists and two policemen killed during shootings, according to the Brazilian media.

Murder rates reached 40 per 100,000 residents in 2017 according to official figures, a significant increase from the 30.3 in 2015; this was partly due to an increase in gun battles between organised criminal gangs over the control of drug-trafficking networks and with the police, and also stemmed from a fiscal crisis that has led to security budget cuts, thus undermining police capacity. Although victims are generally gang members or police officers, innocent civilians are at risk of being caught in a cross fire, as occurred n September 2017 when two bystanders were killed during shootings at the Rocinha favela.

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