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'A devastating scenario': Brazil sets new record for homicides at 63,880 deaths

The Guardian logo The Guardian 3 days ago Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Wania de Moraes grieves for her 13-year-old son Jeremias Moraes da Silva during his burial service, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © AP Wania de Moraes grieves for her 13-year-old son Jeremias Moraes da Silva during his burial service, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil broke its own record for homicides last year, according to new figures which showed that 63,880 people were killed in 2017 – a 3% increase from the previous year.


Data from the independent Brazilian Public Security Forum said that an average of 14 people died at the hands of police officers every day – an increase of 20% from the previous year.

A woman with the word 'Innocent' written on her front takes part in a demonstration by residents of Rio de Janeiro's Jacarezinho and Manguinhos favelas demanding peace, in Rio, Brazil, on August 20, 2017.
In the first half of this year Rio tallied 3,457 homicides -- the highest level of violence since 2009 and 15 percent more than during the same period in 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Apu Gomes        (Photo credit should read APU GOMES/AFP/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images A woman with the word 'Innocent' written on her front takes part in a demonstration by residents of Rio de Janeiro's Jacarezinho and Manguinhos favelas demanding peace, in Rio, Brazil, on August 20, 2017. In the first half of this year Rio tallied 3,457 homicides -- the highest level of violence since 2009 and 15 percent more than during the same period in 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Apu Gomes (Photo credit should read APU GOMES/AFP/Getty Images) Rapes also rose 8% to 60,018, while murders of women increased 6.1% to 4,539.

“It is a devastating scenario,” said Renato Sérgio de Lima, director of the forum, who said the homicide figures had been exacerbated by antiquated laws and police procedures and the growth in organised crime. Most victims were young, black men from poor urban areas, he said.

Members of the Rio of Peace NGO throw black and white beans over a Brazilian flag during a protest against the half a million homicides occured in the last 10 years in the country, on December 5, 2012 at  Copacabana Beach  in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  AFP PHOTO/ANTONIO SCORZA        (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images Members of the Rio of Peace NGO throw black and white beans over a Brazilian flag during a protest against the half a million homicides occured in the last 10 years in the country, on December 5, 2012 at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. AFP PHOTO/ANTONIO SCORZA (Photo credit should read ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images) “The numbers show we have a serious problem with lethal violence,” he said.

The chilling statistics are likely to play into October’s elections where crime is a key issue for many voters. Rightwing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro leads some polls on a platform that includes loosening gun controls and giving police more licence to kill.

“We have two persistent phenomena: violence against women and criminal gangs dealing in drugs and arms,” Lima said.

Activists demonstrate against  the rising cases of female homicides in Medellin, Antioquia department, on October 25, 2011. According to authorities, 71 homicides were commited in the first half of 2011.  AFP PHOTO/Fredy Amariles (Photo credit should read FREDY AMARILES/AFP/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images Activists demonstrate against the rising cases of female homicides in Medellin, Antioquia department, on October 25, 2011. According to authorities, 71 homicides were commited in the first half of 2011. AFP PHOTO/Fredy Amariles (Photo credit should read FREDY AMARILES/AFP/Getty Images) Brazilians have recently been horrified by a spate of femicides – including the death of lawyer Tatiane Spitzner, whose husband Luís Felipe Manvailer was filmed by security cameras attacking her in their apartment building before she fell to her death from their fourth floor apartment. He has been charged with her killing.

Elisandro Lotin, a police sergeant in Santa Catarina state in Southern Brazil and president of a national police association said too few murderers end up in jail and authorities focus on repressing criminals instead of preventing crime.

Rio de Janeiro's famous street car passes by a sign warning against robberies on an electricity pole in the Santa Teresa district, where local residents recently protested against the high levels of violence, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 5, 2017.
According to the Atlas of Violence 2017 published by the Brazilian Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) and the Brazilian Public Security Forum today, this country of 200 million people recorded 59,080 homicides in 2015, or 161 per day. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA        (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images Rio de Janeiro's famous street car passes by a sign warning against robberies on an electricity pole in the Santa Teresa district, where local residents recently protested against the high levels of violence, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 5, 2017. According to the Atlas of Violence 2017 published by the Brazilian Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) and the Brazilian Public Security Forum today, this country of 200 million people recorded 59,080 homicides in 2015, or 161 per day. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images) “There is an impunity about homicide crimes in Brazil,” Lotin said.

According to Rio’s Igarapé Institute, a thinktank specialising in security issues, just 10% of homicides lead to arrest and only 4% in charges.

“Brazilians have yet to wake up to the problem,” said Rob Muggah, its co-founder and research director. “Brazil’s national, state and city authorities urgently need to prioritise homicide reduction.”

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