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Rio de Janeiro Military Police Raid on Comando Vermelho and Argentine Interest in Joining BRICS

May 26 - June 1, 2022 | Issue 10 - SOUTHCOM

Jhamil Moya, Daniel Ruiz, Gabriel Mariotti, Stacey Casas SOUTHCOM Team

Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff

PMERJ Police Wall[1]

Date: May 25, 2022

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Parties involved: Rio de Janeiro Military Police (PMERJ); Brazil’s oldest criminal group, Comando Vermelho; Brazilian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office; Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

The event: The PMERJ carried out an operation against drug trafficking in the Vila Cruzeiro favela (neighborhood) of Rio de Janeiro to capture leaders of the Comando Vermelho criminal group. The police raid lasted 12 hours and left at least 25 dead, including 23 alleged suspects, making it the second deadliest in Rio's history. Police also seized more than a ton of narcotics, consisting of packets of cocaine, marijuana, crack, and other drugs, weapons, ammunition, and grenades. The Brazilian Federal Public Prosecutor's Office announced the opening of an investigation into the conduct and possible violations by police officers who participated in the operation. Neighborhood associations and NGOs have often denounced alleged extrajudicial killings during such operations.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • If the Brazilian court of justice reduces lethal action by the PMERJ during arrest operations, then the number of officers killed or wounded in action will likely increase. If the risk of capturing criminals is greater for the Brazilian security forces, then it is likely that the number of arrests in the favelas will decrease. Fewer arrests will almost certainly lead to greater insecurity in Rio de Janeiro as criminal leaders will likely increase drug trafficking operations in these locations.

  • If the PMERJ continues to operate in the favelas, seizures of drugs, weapons, and arrests are likely to increase, which will likely weaken the Comando Vermelho. An increase in PMERJ seizures and arrests will likely lead to the capture of key individuals within the organization, displacement of the Comando Vermelho to other regions in Brazil, and improve state presence in areas affected by gang violence. The PMERJ's continued presence in the favelas will likely affect Comando Vermelho's capacity to carry out criminal activities that benefit them economically, such as extortion and drug sales, likely weakening them financially.

  • Another alleged excess police brutality incident will very likely worsen trust between police and citizens living near gang-affiliated areas. Less trust will very likely make it more difficult to gain information related to gang location and activities, almost certainly enabling gangs to operate with less pressure from the police and grow in strength. Stronger and larger gangs will very likely put more civilians in danger from gang violence, which will almost certainly increase poverty levels in communities like the favelas, likely worsening living conditions and increasing gang recruitment for protection and financial resources.

  • Another incident of extrajudicial killings during a sting operation will almost certainly lead NGOs to pressure the Brazilian government for police reform. More attention from NGOs will likely bring the issue into the international spotlight and will likely lead to pressure for political change. More pressure from NGOs will likely lead senior Brazilian government officials to pressure the PMERJ to reduce lethal attacks for future drug trafficking operations, likely improving citizen safety in gang areas during police raids and preventing indiscriminate killings.

Date: May 26, 2022

Location: Argentina

Parties involved: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; Russian government; Russia; Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs Santiago Cafiero; Argentine government; Brazil; India; China; South Africa; Peru; Chile; US; International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The event: Lavrov stressed that Argentina is interested in joining the BRICS group, which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Cafiero affirmed his desire to become a full member of the BRICS. He was recently invited to participate in a virtual meeting of the group, and both Brazil and China already support Argentina's possible membership.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • If Argentina enters the BRICS group, the economic influence of Russia and China will likely be strengthened in the South American region, which will very likely generate the other non-member countries to align their economic and financial policies with the BRICS policy. If this trend continues, it is likely that other countries such as Peru or Chile with a leftist tendency will show interest in joining this group, which will very likely give Russia and China greater geopolitical power in the region.

  • Argentina's rapprochement with BRICS is likely to negatively affect its relationship with countries such as the US, likely reducing political, diplomatic, and economic cooperation between the two countries. The US will likely strengthen its political relationship with allies in the region to counterbalance BRICS' growing influence, almost certainly increasing political tension in the region. If BRICS gains Argentina and expands its influence in the region, it is very likely that the economic balance in the region and the international influence of capitalism will change and the US will be rivaled by countries such as Russia and China.

  • At the same time, Argentina is likely to improve its economic relations with BRICS countries, likely increasing commercial ties and benefiting from financing mechanisms offered through BRICS, likely through social investment projects in Argentina. With BRICS offering an alternative to IMF financing, it is likely more Latin American countries will be encouraged to join. There is a roughly even chance that BRICS' influence in Latin America will continue expanding if BRICS financing conditions are less strict than the IMF’s regarding economic reform requirements.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[2] Suben a 25 los muertos en operación policial en favela de Rio de Janeiro, The World News, May 2022, (translated by Daniel Ruiz)

[3] Rusia destaca el interés de Argentina en ingresar en los BRICS, SWI, May 2022, (translated by Daniel Ruiz)



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