Brazil: Blogging helps the police to mobilize and protest

Lieutenant Melquisedec Nascimento, a blogger since April 2007, reports [pt] that his house was visited by four officials from the Police Internal Affairs Department, a special force that investigates crimes committed by police officers. According to him, this visit followed Saturday's order from Rio de Janeiro Governor Sergio Cabral that the blogger be arrested immediately. Cláudio Humberto [pt] broke the news a few hours after the warrant:

O governador Sérgio Cabral (PMDB-RJ) determinou na tarde deste sábado que a Corregedoria interna da PM ouvisse e prendesse o presidente da Assosiação dos Miltares Auxiliares e Especialistas (Amae), tenente Melquisedec Nascimento, que em seu blog Militar Legal mostrou fotos do governador com chapéu e nariz de Pinóquio. O tenente não foi encontrado. O advogado dele e da Amae diz que a medida é “absurda, arbitrária e antidemocrática, pois meu cliente preside uma entidade de classe, com direito à liberdade de expressão de seus associados garantida pela Constituição”.

Governor Sergio Cabral (PMDB-RJ party) established this Saturday afternoon that the Police Internal Affairs Department heard and arrested the chairman of the Auxiliary and Experts Military Association (Amae), Lt. Melquisedec Nascimento, who has showed pictures of the Governor with Pinocchio's hat and nose in his blog, Militar Legal [pt]. The lieutenant was not found. His and the Amae's lawyer says that the measure is “absurd, arbitrary and undemocratic because my client chairs a trade union, with the right to freedom of expression of its members guaranteed by the Constitution.”

According to Lt. Nascimento, who is still free and blogging, Cabral was greatly irritated by a photo composition and a video posted on the Militar Legal blog, in which the governor is depicted as Pinocchio. After the arrest warrant, many other bloggers have published the same picture out of solidarity. Others went even further, from Pinocchio to Hitler. Cláudia [pt] is one of the many bloggers who protested, publishing another montage using Sérgio Cabral's picture:

Uma coisa eu tenho certeza, o nosso governador nunca mais terá os votos dos policiais militare (de verdade) e de suas famílias, contudo isso não deve abalar em nada as suas próximas campanhas, são só 110.000 votos, contando só com mulher e filhos, se for contar com a familia toda do policial militar o numero de votos passa de 200.000. Infelizmente esse é o modo que nosso “fiher” achou certo de fazer em seu primeiro mandato como ditad…governador. Parabéns senhor, nunca o esqueceremos! Hae Sérgio Hitler Cabral!!!!!

One thing I am sure about, our governor will never have the votes of the military police (honestly) and their families, but this should not in any way undermine their next campaign, as there are just 110,000 votes if we count wives and children only, if we are to count the police officers’ whole families too, the number of votes is increased to over 200,000. Unfortunately this is the way that our “furher” thought it was appropriate for his first term as dictat… governor. Congratulations sir, we will never forget you! Hae Sérgio Hitler Cabral!!!!!

A cross was placed in Copacabana Beach for every police officer dead within the last five years, on February 1st: all together there are 586. Photo by Thiago Velloso

In one of the world's most violent cities, a newly recruited police officer earns $500.00 a month and after a 30 year career they will end up with a monthly salary of $3500.00, according to Lt. Nascimento. The demand is for a starting salary of $ 1500.00 and better working conditions to conduct a seriously dangerous job: the confrontations with drug dealers and gangs claim around 10 lives a month among police officers, and officials complain that there is a lack of adequate facilities to carry out the work safely.

In a post called Rio de Janeiro is mourning, colonel Paulo Ricardo Paúl [pt] pays homage to the latest of their side's victims, a young cadet killed this Sunday while going home at the end of his carnival shift. According to two colleagues who managed to escape, the murders knew they were from the police force and were after their guns, but as they were just cadets, they didn't have yet the right to carry any:

O Rio de Janeiro perdeu mais um herói social, um jovem idealista que tinha escolhido ser um herói na defesa da sociedade fluminense. Um jovem que sonhava servir e proteger o cidadão. Uma vida ceifada pela covarde violência urbana que se multiplica pela nossa cidade.

Rio de Janeiro has lost another social hero, a young idealist who had chosen to be a hero in the defense of the fluminense [from Rio de Janeiro] society. A youngster who had dreamed to serve and protect the public. A life claimed by the cowardly urban violence which multiplies itself around our city.

On the other hand, the force faces strong criticism from human rights groups for indiscriminate killings in the slums. Last year alone, a record 1,260 civilians died in clashes with police in the state, according to the Rio de Janeiro State Institute of Public Safety. On the Wednesday ahead of Carnival, at least six alleged drug traffickers were killed in crack downs on gangs as the police swept through two slums.

There is an ongoing crisis in the force over pay and working conditions, which has been intensified in the days leading up to Carnival. A little more than 50 officers resigned and 11 have been fired from positions of trust in Rio de Janeiro's military police force in the last weeks, including another blogger, Major Wanderby Braga de Medeiros [pt]. Their commander, Col. Ubiratan Angelo, was dismissed by the state governor Sergio Cabral for allowing a protest over pay. These controversial sackings were justified, according to the state government, because the military police service comes under the same rules as the army. Unlike their civilian counterparts, military officers have no rights to join a union or to go on strikes. But now they can blog.

And more and more police officers, from all ranks and states in Brazil, are discovering this. They use blogs to spread information about future meetings and to quickly mobilize protests, to make their claims known to the greater public, to comment on reports by the mass media, to produce their own independent journalism. Alexandre de Souza [pt] quotes the Secretary of Public Security, José Mariano Beltrame, who according to the blogger has said “We will not accept that they make claims in such a tone, using websites and blogs”. Souza asks other police bloggers not bring the tone down, even in the face of retaliation from their superiors:

Blogs são ferramentas pessoais, acessíveis, de baixo custo, sem intermediários, apoiadas em uma mídia instantânea e de alcance global. Entende agora porque temos tanto poder? E se hoje a informação é o poder, nunca ele esteve tão próximo de cada um de nós, livre e democraticamente. Não vamos, agora, abrir mão disso. Continuemos nesse tom. E se injustiças forem cometidas, aumentemos o tom!

Blogs are personal, accessible, low cost tools, with no intermediaries, which rely on a instantaneous media with a global reach. Do you now understand why we have so much power? And if nowadays information is power, this has never been as close to each one of us, freely and democratically. We will not give it up now. Let us continue using this tone. And if injustices are committed, we'll increase the tone!

The banner reads: “586 dead police officers – for less than R$ 30 a day”. The daily rates for a police officer in Rio de Janeiro is $17 a day. Photo by Thiago Velloso



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