By Andrew Willis, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Roughly 30,000 additional Polícia Militar (PMs, or military police) were deployed across Rio state prior to the elections on Sunday, in addition to around 6,500 Brazilian Army forces deployed earlier in the week, to minimize intimidation tactics and illegal campaigning. Fortunately, the October 7th municipal elections passed quietly with the distribution of political pamphlets close to voting centers as the most visible infraction.
Police in Rio made hundreds of arrests as supporters handed out flyers for candidates close to voting centers in a bid to win over undecided electors, a practice banned in Brazil.
Voters were selecting local councilors and mayors in state capitals, with Rio de Janeiro’s Eduardo Paes (PMDB) one of only nine mayors to be elected in the first round, with over fifty percent of the vote.
“The elections are passing off calmly, the only irregularity is people handing out pamphlets,” Felipe Paiva, an independent political researcher monitoring the vote in the Vidigal favela community, said by telephone on Sunday afternoon.
Reports from residents in the Rochina and Santa Marta favelas, as well as the Zona Norte (North Zone) Complexo do Alemão, confirmed the irregular campaigning as the most evident infraction. In the week running up to the elections, officials in Rio seized on average per day a ton of irregular advertising in the city’s non-pacified favelas, including posters and billboards illegally attached to houses and lampposts.
Paiva said the use of coercion, forcing voters to back a certain candidate, was rare in Rio’s Zona Sul favelas. “Even when there were drug dealers here in Vidigal, people were never really submitted to pressure from the police or drug dealers. That happens much more in Rio’s [Zona Norte].”
In an effort to prevent electoral intimidation, an additional 30,000 Polícia Militar were deployed during the week leading up to the elections, included 320 police from the Special Police Operations Battalion (Bope) and 400 from the Police Shock Battalion (BPChq).
As federal troops entered two non-pacified communities – the Minha Deusa and Antares favelas in Rio’s Zona Oeste (West Zone) – three days before the election, drug dealers fired bullets and let off fireworks to warn gang members. According to the army, no one was injured. “It was an isolated event,” a military spokesperson said.
There were also isolated reports of gang leaders and drug dealers charging political candidates between R$30,000 and R$50,000 (US$15,000 – US$25,000) to campaign in areas under their control. Political parties said extortion demands took place in at least seven favelas in Zona Norte and Zona Oeste of Rio, as well as Itaboraí, Niterói, Belford Roxo, Nova Iguaçu and Duque de Caxias, the O Globo newspaper reported.
Roughly 140 million Brazilians were eligible to vote in Sunday’s election. Census data released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) showed that six percent of Brazil’s population lived in one of the country’s favelas in 2010.