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

The Guardian logo The Guardian 8/9/2018 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.

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.

“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.

Brazilians have recently been horrified by a spate of femicides – including the death of lawyer Tatiane Spitzner, whose husband Luís Felipe Manvailerwas 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.

“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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