This is not the first time Brazil’s federal government has ordered the army to take command of Rio de Janeiro’s police force. The city has seen drug gangs and paramilitary militias fight over territory for years. But Rio’s murder rate is up 26 percent since 2015, and during Carnival celebrations early this month, images of gangs surrounding and robbing tourists featured daily on national television. Announcing a state of emergency last week, President Michel Temer explained that drug gangs have “nearly taken over” the city.
This latest round of violence is unfolding during a presidential election year, and the government’s ability to contain the killing could have an impact on the race. Pacification of the city won’t do much to help Temer, the incumbent with a single-digit approval rating. He’s unlikely to run anyway. Depending on how the violence plays out, maybe it’ll boost former military man and law-and-order tough guy Jair Bolsonaro, the presidential candidate who once said “Cops who don’t kill anyone aren’t really cops.” So far, Bolsonaro has refused to support the army intervention. Stay tuned.