11 thoughts on “Honors World Regional #10

  1. The stark contrasts present in these images intrigues me. One the one hand, there is destitute poverty. Poverty so extreme, few Americans these days are able to truly comprehend it unless they’ve traveled abroad or grown up in very specific regions of the United States. One the other hand, however, is the evidence of money. The police, or soldiers, are covered in it. Body armor, tactical equipment, customized firearms, armored vehicles… Their gear costs thousands, if not millions, of dollars. It begs the question; wouldn’t that money be better deposited directly into such impoverished areas?

    If only it were so simple. These pictures, due to their stark contrast, seem to imply such a simplistic solution. What they don’t show, however, is the reason the much funded law enforcement forces are there. And ultimately, this reason drains far more money from the region than any state forces could drain or input.
    Obviously, these images are a part of the “War on Drugs.” As my Modern Terrorism professor Darren Swagerty likes to quip, “a ‘war on anything’ sounds like a bad idea to me. War on Drugs. War on Terror. War on Poverty. How’s that going? Have we been successful in any of these endeavors?” And he has a point. The world, particularly the United States and its allies, has not. But, morally speaking, a state cannot sit by and doing nothing in the face of such issues. What is to be done then? And why are the contrasts depicted in these photos the choice of action for the state?

    There are no easy answers. On the one hand, drugs create income. Producing them, transporting them, marketing them— each level receives a portion of the sale at the end of the process. Yet, only certain individuals involved reap the majority of the benefits. The vast majority of the population suffers the side effects of an economy of drugs. Violence, towards the state and rival producers, is rampant. Corruption, from bribing government officials, is a problem. External investors begin to look elsewhere, damaging any hopes of economic progress or diversification. And, perhaps most importantly, drugs are inherently harmful to citizens themselves. The medical cost associated with drug abuse is immense, and rehabilitation efforts are usually costly as well. Frankly, addicted citizens are also less likely to contribute their potential to the economy in the form of jobs and taxes.

    Thus, states rightfully attempt to intervene and prevent this process. Morals aside, as far as economics and standard of living go a select few receive benefits but the greater good is degraded. States have an inherent duty to provide for the greater good. Obviously, the over-crowded, destitute areas pictured are in need of a system that is better than the imperfections of a drug-based economy. Yet the question remains, are the heavily armed police a proper response aiding in finding a better system?

    It is a difficult question. On the one hand, it promotes violence and at times can lead to over-aggressive actions by the law enforcement personnel. One harsh action incites a harsh reaction, in an escalating crescendo of violence. On the other hand, without such armament, many South American police forces would be outgunned and outmanned in any attempt to restrict or eliminate drug production, trafficking, or sales.

    In my opinion, while it is important to have the police or military capability to intercept and eliminate those involved in the drug economy, there needs to be a shifting of emphasis. The more important factors needing to be addressed are corruption and lack of economic opportunity. These are much more difficult to pursue, which is probably why they are achieved less often. Corruption can be difficult to spot, after all you have to judge someone’s moral character and investigate sly deals they intentionally keep hidden. Economic opportunity is simply difficult to control, involving dozens upon dozens of factors. Frankly, it is much easier to pay someone to tell you where the local drug dealer is, kick in his door, and have a shootout. But, without curbing corruption and attempting to provide solid economic alternatives to drugs, the War on Drugs will simply be an endless cycle of cops and robbers. A game of who can outgun or outrun the other, with no clear winners until the game is changed.

  2. Favelas South America
    Slums, or Favelas as they are called in Brazil are rampant throughout South America. Rural to Urban migration causes a surge in population. There, of course, isn’t proper or affordable housing for these people so they build their own under bridges, in alleys, through vacant lots or buildings, etc. These informal settlements have informal economies often based on trade. Because the government can’t integrate these slums into regular societies, they are often patrolled by the military or bulldozed.
    One in five Rio citizens live in these slums. Sanitation, electricity, water, and trash pickup are not available through the city government in these slums. Neither is health care or education. Only 8.4 of the average favela population can read. Most inhabitants are also malnourished. This creates a desperate need in the community, and often drugs and crimes fill that hole.
    Drug lords tend to rule these places. Their money creates jobs, schools, protection, and clinics in exchange for places to hide from police, prostitution, and new recruits. Crime and mob rule take over. Shootouts between Brazil’s version of the DEA and the drug lords are a regular occurrence. Many times this puts innocent women and children into the heat of the drug war.
    Rio has a lot of these communities and they have become a problem as the 2016 Olympics approach. 90% of the 600 favela occupants that live on the edge of Olympic Park have received compensation and relocated. There are a few however who refuse to leave their homes of many years in order to build parks that will only be used for less than a month. This caused police violence and led to the deaths of at least six inhabitants resisting relocation. I wonder if the Brazilian government is moving the favela in order to expand the park or cover the eyesore that is extreme poverty.
    Relocation may actually benefit the slum livers because international sporting events create a high surge of drug and human trafficking. Children under mob rule could be forced to move drugs or even be sold into slavery if they are near and accessible to the park. I know removing people from their homes is cruel, but this may help curb crime on an international level.

  3. The favelas of Brazil are one of the most widespread issues throughout the country. Each time I had ever visited Brazil, the favelas cover the hills and seem to stretch for miles. They weave in and out of wealthy areas and seem to exist in any place that they can. I recall my cousins (from Brazil) having a lot of discussion with me around the time when hundreds of homes were being demolished for the World Cup (not a new occurrence), mostly the discussion centered around a video we had seen of Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais (BOPE) going through one of these favelas and slapping around some young children, eventually leading to one being shot. This was when I realized (my cousins had known this) that the Brazilian government saw the inhabitants of the favelas as essentially expendable. These occurrences happen so frequently and honestly, due to incredible wealth inequality in the country, the situation may never change for those living in favelas. From a young age I had always been told that in Brazil one is either very wealthy or very poor– there is no middle class. Understanding this in the context of favelas, I wonder how many citizens are disenfranchised and what the average income is of those who are able to vote would be. It could be argued that the future of these citizens lie in the hands of the wealthy, and it will continue to be bad until the wealthy are able to vote to protect the human rights of those living in favelas. Along these lines, the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff actually showed that many of the voter base is avidly against the corruption of the Brazilian government, but whether or not that correlates with policy regarding favelas is yet to be seen. I would like to mention a film that actually had a very profound effect on the wealthier Brazilian population: Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad). This film was based on a book written by two ex-BOPE officers, and although the film is exaggerated quite a bit, it still captures the essence of the militarization of the Brazilian urban police force and the many ways in which police brutality occurs. It actually continued to become one of the most popular films in modern Brazilian cinema, not for its violence, but for its message– most significantly that citizens outside of favelas should be aware of what goes on, essentially.
    Also, it could be argued that the militarization of the urban police force in Brazil is completely related to the government attempting to control and regulate something that they have give nothing to. A healthy government has a good relation with its people: it gives (services) and the people give back (taxes). When that exchange is grossly unequal, the people will turn to services from other groups that offer them, in this case, drug cartels. But the Brazilian government, similar to the U.S. government in some ways, justifies their invasion of favelas as a means to “crack down” on crime and drug trafficking. Although this exists greatly in favelas, approaching the situation by force does nothing but serve as a catalyst for labeling the country as a human rights violator, and distance the relationship between the government and the people of favelas. Where will the balance be?

  4. As Latin American metropolitan area have seen a large increase in rural to urban migration, the appearance of favelas has occurred. Favelas are informal settlements in which impoverish people looking for work in large cities create makeshift housing in areas considered traditionally uninhabitable. As more people move into these areas, they begin to emulate actual communities. Favelas can pop up under busy and noisy overpasses, hills with high landslide risks, trash dumps, etc. These communities create complications for the governments of the countries and cities in which they reside. As these favelas develop, they become impossible to ignore and responses from the government and society must be discussed.

    As favelas grow, certain characteristic define them. Favelas are a function of extreme poverty. They operate outside the government which is why they are called informal societies. The informal residences and buildings are unregulated by any building codes. They are constructed out of whatever materials can be found. These residences are without addresses or monitoring so they cannot be a part of the city’s formal mailing, taxation, police, educational, water, electrical, trash, and plumbing systems. This creates horrible living and disease conditions within the favelas which are worsened by the fact the inhabitants do not have access to the healthcare system. Because the favelas do not have formal systems for removing waste products and the residents live in such close quarters, diseases are easily developed and spread but hard to control. Also, the cities have trouble with residents of the favelas siphoning electricity and water from the cities supply without paying for these amenities. Another problem with the favelas is that they can be deadly due to the fact that they are frequently built upon unstable ground. For example, a favela built on an unsafe site because of landslide risk can collapse when the earth gives way killing mass amounts of residences. Also, the favelas much of the time are not regulated by the police which can make them a breeding ground for criminal activity.

    There are a few tactics a government can take with addressing favelas. If the government tries to ignore the favelas, the most likely outcome seen is criminal organizations developing control over these informal settlements. The people of these settlement will become loyal to organizations that provide social services for them. So these criminal organization develop a hold on these society not solely through force but mostly through aid. The aid they provide can come in the form of education, health care services, food handouts, etc. Once the criminal organization has control over the settlement, it uses it as a place to recruit, traffic, sell, avoid authorities, etc.

    Another tactic that the government can and have taken is to completely destroy the favelas. This has produced unhelpful outcomes. When the government destroys the settlements, they just displace the people who live there who do not disappear and usually end up developing another favela in a different location.

    Another tactic the government can take is gentrification which is the only good solution out of the ones mentioned in my opinion. Gentrification means that the government attempts to integrate these societies into the surrounding city and “formalize” them. This brings more stability and formal social services to the favela and also allows them to be taxed. This method can bring a better standard of living to the residents of the favelas and decrease crime. A problem with this strategy is that it is expensive to enact and once the settlement becomes more stable middle class persons can move into these areas and displace the people living there. Even though all these options for addressing favelas have their problems, they cannot be ignored. The application of well-done gentrification by the government by far has the most benefits.

  5. Even though most of the pictures seem to be portraying the favelas in Brazil, they could also be from any of the other poor neighborhoods across Latin America, and how they stand as a monument to the failure of this governments to improve the lives of their citizens, and to successfully spread the money owned by a few citizens of their countries.

    These favelas have become a dumping ground of sorts for the governments of Latin America, as all the poor people that have failed to obtain enough money to become middle class, have relocated to the slums, where more than usual they lack basic human needs, like water, electricity and are usually controlled by gangs, since law enforcement is non-existent in the depths of these neighborhoods, making them a haven of sorts for all kind of illegal operations, turning them into some of the most dangerous places on Earth.

    Yet an interest contrast is provided in the equipment worn by soldiers patrolling the slums which as long with the not showed skyline of their respective cities, shows that unlike other poor regions in the world, Brazil and other countries in Latin America do have money, therefore the problem is not the lack of money but rather that these countries have done a poor job of offering equal opportunities for all of their citizens.

    The presence of soldiers also shows the amount of lawlessness found into these places, as common law enforcement has been dubbed insufficient to reclaim control of these slums, where government authority is non-existent. Yet the increased interest of the war on drugs, has led to most countries, most importantly Brazil, to mount an effort to send the military into these slums, in order to reclaim government authority in these places. While most of these efforts come from greedy reasons, such as reclaiming slums in order to increase public support for the Olympics or the World cup, it still shines a hope of light that if order is restored; water, power and employments will follow eventually, and thus one days this slums will became just average neighborhoods in the new landscape of Latin America.

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