By Helen Trouten Torres, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Four years ago the Police Chief and State Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame was told by businessmen and representatives of public agencies from all spheres of government that the lack of security and presence of armed gangs was impeding social investments in Rio’s favelas. Today, after seventeen favelas have been pacified, this reason for lack of social investment no longer has the same validity and it’s Beltrame’s turn to voice concern.
“The new model of UPP community policing has freed over 300,000 favela residents so far from the terror of daily gun battles in the drugs war yet social projects must come in tow for the plan to be a success” explained Beltrame in a recent public interview on Globo TV.
“Nothing survives with security alone. It’s time for social investments,” said the Police Chief. “Only then will the end of the divided city become a reality.”
The Security Secretary expressed his frustrations about the slow arrival of social investment and infrastructure to pacified communities and alluded to the lack of social inclusion in favelas.
“Although the UPPs are pleasing, I have my worries about the post-UPP. The reason for the existence of UPP is to create a fertile ground for the generation of dignity. That is what will ensure the project’s success, not just the police presence.” Beltrame told O Globo newspaper.
“The UPP has created an environment for society to begin paying back the debt that we all have with these neighborhoods which have so far been excluded from society. What I want is to promote the UPP program, so it finally takes off. You can make a ring of policemen to maintain order, but that’s not what society wants.”
Beltrame explained that because the police are often the only physical official presence in the UPP favelas, residents go to officers to register complaints about a number of social and infastructure issues that should be directed towards other agencies such as Cedae, Light, CET-Rio, thus hindering the real work of the police and leaving residents frustrated.
“The Police become the physical presence of the state, 24 hours a day. People go there to complain about garbage collection, public transport, even sports lessons for their children … We must ensure that these communities be provided with electricity, sanitation, public lighting, nurseries, recreational areas, clinics, social workers, dentists, cultural and sports facilities.”
The success of highly publicized social inclusion initiatives in Complexo do Alemão was referenced by Beltrame: “I would like everything that is happening in Complexo do Alemão to occur in communities with UPP but until now the efforts have been focused heavily on one area. Even a bank has been opened there. This should happen everywhere.”
Beltrame also spoke about his sense of responsibility to the favela residents. “The people, with the arrival of the police, can now begin to think that the state is present there. But this state has to present a more tangible, stronger way of serving the communities. It’s something that worries me because we’re messing with people’s imagination. This is no joke.”
Responding to rumors that he may resign from his position Beltrame replied “To exit would be a selfish thing. I fight a lot and it wears on me but I will not throw in the towel.”