By Zoë Roller, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Wednesday, September 28th, Military Police Commander Mário Sérgio de Brito Duarte announced his resignation from the hospital where he was recovering from prostate surgery. Duarte, a former commander of BOPE and the Maré Battalion, was appointed by Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame in July 2009. Duarte is the third PM commander to resign in the past three years.
The announcement followed the arrest of Lieutenant Colonel Cláudio Luis Silva de Oliveira, former commander of the São Gonçalo (7th) Military Police Battalion, for ordering the murder of Judge Patrícia Acioli. Six PM officers were arrested as well, and are being held in Bangu 1, Rio’s maximum-security prison.
In his resignation letter, Duarte admitted that appointing Oliveira was a grave error that tarnished the PM’s reputation. The letter stated, “I have to clarify to the people of Rio de Janeiro that this choice, like every appointment to the command of a PM unit, cannot be attributed to anyone but me.” Beltrame affirmed that he had “full confidence” in Duarte and lamented his departure.
Despite taking full responsibility, Duarte did not address the fact that a number of complaints had been filed against Oliveira before his promotion for abuse of authority, police brutality, and involvement with militias. Reports indicate Beltrame was aware of these complaints when he approved Duarte’s decision.
In a speech given on September 14th, Duarte emphasized the importance of finding the guilty parties within the PM. “It’s important that we find the culprits because this is an individualized crime. Otherwise the blame falls on the entire unit…It’s important to get the culprits to trial and relieve the unit of collective guilt.”
Duarte’s tenure as commander has seen several other scandals that affected public confidence in the PM. In 2009, officers from the 13th Battalion were caught on camera releasing a group of criminals who killed Evandro João da Silva, social coordinator for the NGO AfroReggae. At the time Duarte professed shame, saying, “It’s imperative to ask for society’s forgiveness. The PM made a mistake.”
In June of this year, four PM officers were arrested for shooting an eleven year-old boy named Juan Moraes during an operation in Nova Iguaçu and trying to cover up his death by hiding the body. Earlier this month an investigation revealed that police in the Santa Teresa UPP had been accepting bribes from drug traffickers, and the commander was discharged.
On Thursday Beltrame, along with a group of officials, announced Duarte’s successor: Colonel Erir Ribeiro da Costa Filho, former commander of the Shock Battalion. According to some, Costa Filho is known as a whistle blower, having denounced PM colleagues and State Deputy Chiquinho da Mangueira.
Costa Filho began restructuring PM hierarchy on his first day in office, transferring officials to the General Personnel Department. He appointed Colonel Kátia Neri Nunes Boaventura as his chief of staff, and replaced UPP commander Robson Rodrigues with Colonel Rogério Seabra Martins. The changes were abrupt and unexpected. Said Rodrigues, “I don’t know anything. I still haven’t spoken to the commander.”
As the media touted a “crisis in the PM,” Secretary Beltrame proposed new strategies to prevent future corruption cases, including requiring police officers to declare their assets every year. He has asked the State Attorney General to create a procedure for investigating possible embezzlement on the force.