By Chris Kudialis, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Political candidates hoping to reach favela populations in Rio de Janeiro, Baixada Fluminense and Região Metropolitana are paying extra for local support, confirm multiple reports. According to a report by O Globo, governing militias and drug cartels are charging up to R$100,000 for candidates to enter communities and leave propaganda, like signs and pamphlets.
The practice is allowing wealthy, paying candidates to emerge as unanimous favorites, and leaving behind those who don’t pay. “[Favela drug traffickers] and militias professionalize their manpower,” said an anonymous party president to O Globo. “Some candidates are now giving up on the favelas.”
The practice of campaign taxation is nothing new in Rio’s favelas. In 2012 there were 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.
Paying for favela entry comes with incentives for candidates that can afford it, as governing cartels are accused of pressuring residents to vote for preferred candidates. At the same time, candidates that don’t pay often see their signs removed and their pamphlets banned – even in UPP pacified favelas.
Such was the case for state representative Carlos Minc last month in UPP occupied Rocinha. After opening a campaign center and hanging signs in the favela, Minc was surprised when his propaganda was gone the next day.“We had rented a space for the campaign, but the landowner later told us he had to cancel the deal,” Minc explained to EBC, “because the traffickers didn’t want us campaigning and hanging signs. They said only their candidates could hang signs in the favela.”
“I figured that with UPP present, there wouldn’t be such violent political persuasion,” he added. “They take signs, charge money and make deals.”
Cidinha Campos, also a state representative, was a victim of similar crimes in Del Castilho and Bangu neighborhood favelas.
“Some guys that work for me posted campaign signs, and the next day we found the signs burnt and destroyed on the ground,” Campos explained. “An armed man told them the place had an owner and sent them to speak with the President of the Residents’ Association.”
According to Representative Campos, two men who said they were Presidents of the Association delivered a letterhead with a breakdown of voters in all of the communities. “They know the number of votes in each precinct and force voters to vote for their preferred candidate,” she said. Campos also reiterated that most sites in Del Castilho and Bangu are controlled by militias and groups of current and former police officers who commit crimes and extortion to “ensure the safety” of their residents.
Both Representative Minc and Representative Campos have reported their respective incidents to regional election prosecutor Paulo Roberto Berénger, who is also working with Brazil’s Federal Police forces to investigate crimes alleged by the O Globo report.
In 2012, roughly 30,000 additional Polícia Militar (PMs, or military police) were deployed across Rio state prior to the municipal elections, in addition to around 6,500 Brazilian Army forces deployed earlier in the week before the voting, to minimize intimidation tactics and illegal campaigning.