Barrio Counterinsurgency

Newsweek’s Mac Margolis has an excellent report from Rio de Janeiro outlining the scale of police action it will take to make real inroads into our own problem with urban violence. Really essential reading.

Brazil’s approach is…not for the fainthearted. It relies on mobilizing massive, unprecedented police and military resources to short-circuit the spiral of violence in the most dangerous slums. In some of Rio’s favelas they’re having to bring in one cop for every forty residents to keep on top of the gangs. That’s basically an occupation force: barrio counterinsurgency.

That’s not even hyperbole, because what they’re doing in Rio’s slums amounts to Clear & Hold. Rather than one-time incursions to dismantle drug gangs, the strategy calls for police and the military to go into the worst favelas in numbers and then stay there for an extended period of time, “pacifying” the neighbourhoods long enough to impose a new, non-violent normality.

Needless to say, the financial and logistical costs are stratospheric. But they are showing that, even starting from a baseline of extreme, drug-fueled violence, bringing some semblance of law and order is not impossible.

Hard? Yes…but not impossible.