RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Journalism is inherently critical, or it should be, and even in a community news company like ours we try to be objective and not shy away from sensitive topics, although as noted before, we do have our limitations. This week we had a story about UPP officers surveyed and reports of a lack of enthusiasm and commitment among the troops.
Our reporter did a great job going to Vidigal and getting some comments from the community and some UPP officers there, and did a good job in balancing the perspectives of the residents and police.
One thing that the story did not do at first was to provide more context to the UPP program as a whole, and so we re-worked it to try to give some wider perspective. The perspective being – three years ago almost any favela you walked into was run by teenagers with automatic rifles roaming the streets.
Now that is much less common, now there are UPP and other police with automatic rifles on the streets. Some critics would say this is less appealing, as the practice of law they enforce is less desirable. That may be so, in practice.
It seems critics have two general concerns, first, the police are more corrupt and ineffectual than the trafficantes, and second, that they will leave once the global interest of the Olympics passes after 2016. The latter is less probable in my opinion, as by then the tax revenue and legal enterprise will perpetuate itself, although perhaps with less police fanfare.
However, if the first concern is not dealt with with vigor and commitment, the continuation of a the UPP presence will become a new tragic chapter in these impoverished communities. They will have lost their best form of revenue, and have a more institutionalized oppressor.
Call me an optimist, but I believe in Brazil, and I believe the top-down progress against corruption are real, and will make a difference. Perhaps with more caution, I believe that the distribution of wealth and economic equality is also happening, and that this – after a few generations – will change the culture of corruption.
Every society has corruption, and some are better at hiding it then others. It would be silly to think it will ever go away, but it is important to have a standard of ideals to strive for. And those ideals are part of what the UPP must represent in the favela communities of Rio.