The Warlike Violence of a Kite

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For the original in Portuguese, published in Coletivo Carranca, click here.

On January 15, the Marvellous City saw another disturbing episode in the history of the State’s violent armed interventions in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. In Cachoeira Grande, part of the group of favelas Complexo do Lins in Rio’s North Zone, Patrick, 11 years old, was shot dead by a policeman from the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP).

As part of the routine when it comes to the large number of deaths of young black Brazilians, the media has been contributing to the criminalization of victims by publishing images of children playing with kites while carrying guns in the favela. From analyzing the images, the Civil Police has concluded that a small army of 30 boys is operating in the Lins favelas.

I stop reading the media coverage for a moment and take a deep breath. I think about the ongoing military occupation of Complexo da Maré, with military tanks and soldiers pointing powerful machine guns at favela residents. I conclude there must be some confusion over what the army and warlike violence are about.

In an interview, the State Secretary for Security in Rio de Janeiro José Mariano Beltrame defended efforts to reduce the age of criminal responsibility as a possible solution for the problem of armed children, and announced that the Lins UPP would receive support from the Special Operations Brigade of the Brazilian army for confrontations with those children.

A recent study entitled The Violence Map 2014 – the Youth of Brazil pointed out the racial, economic and spatial selectiveness of homicides in Brazil. Out of the more than 56,000 homicides that took place in Brazil in 2012, 41,127 of the victims were black. When faced with a system of historic socio-economic inequality and violence against the black population, the State proposes armed intervention and prison as the solution.

The reduction of the age of criminal responsibility will not change the reality for young black Brazilians; instead, it will just increase their incarceration rate and the genocidal logic of the system. Repressive policies such as this one give a false impression that something is being done, when in reality they will only make things worse, since they justify a lack of investment in quality education and social policies. What’s more, reducing the age of criminal responsibility would contribute to the devaluation of life and the continuation of autos de resistência, where police use self-defense as a justification for the murders of innocent people. This is an affront to the democratic state.

A child was killed, or ‘pacified,’ by a bullet shot by a UPP policeman. It’s time to talk about this never-ending policy of exterminating the black population, disguised as a model of citizenship.