There is more to Brazil than Natal - Discover Maceio

Discussion in 'Brazil Property' started by Brazilian Homes, Feb 10, 2009.

  1. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    While it would be fair to argue that the level of repression was never as severe as in neighbouring Argentina, the military rulers in Brazil were no different in the way that they dealt with "subversives" through the extra-legal means of torture and extra-legal assassination.

    Indeed, "torture became the main weapon employed by security forces to subdue those thought to be subversive." This was particularly true during the administration of General Emiliano Garrastazu Médici (1969-1974). In that time, agents of the Second Army's OBAN (Operation Bandeirantes) and São Paulo's DOI/CODI (Internal Operations Department) conducted acts of torture in which "most victims died or were permanently impaired."

    These agents could decide whether a "subversive" should be dealt with according to the judicial process or by means of torture and assassination. And there were also, in addition to government agencies such as OBAN and the DOI/CODI, heavily armed, quick-response assault teams for fighting the subversives. The most notorious of them was the ROTA, a specialist squad consisting of a few hundred policemen from São Paulo state. According to law professor Paul Chavigny:

    "In the first nine months of 1981, near the end of the dictatorship, the ROTA shot 136 people and killed 129 of them. Civil policemen were recruited to torture political suspects; under the impunity of the dictatorship, they formed a death squad to eliminate suspects, criminal as well as political. It proved to be so murderous and corrupt that it was gradually eliminated, at least in its original form, before the dictatorship ended."

    Alternatively, another hypothesis proffered by some academics to at least partially explain the explosion of criminality is that radical leftists, who resorted to terrorist activities during the military regime and subsequently served time in prison, passed on to common criminals their subversive ideology and, above all, the skills they had developed.

    They did so perhaps in the naïve belief that any "social injustice" of a capitalist society somewhat justified criminal behaviour. They would have embraced a political theory that paints the common criminal as a "poor" victim of society, seeing his illegal behaviour as somehow constituting a form of political activism, an instrument wielded by the oppressed classes against the capitalist system.

    Such a utopian view has no basis in social experience. More tragically, these political activists would have ignored the fact that the main victims of crime and violence were, and still are, people from the lower and middle classes. Even so, observes Page,

    "There is evidence that political prisoners were held together with common convicts... in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and that the latter learned from the former not only how to organize and defend their rights within the penitentiary but also some of subtleties involved in planning and executing bank robberies (such as Dilma Rousseff, who Lula is pimping as Brazil's next president) and kidnappings.

    "Moreover, this was the period when inmates founded the "Red Command," a network that enabled organized crime to take virtual control of major prisons in the state of Rio de Janeiro and eventually to draw into its ranks some of the major traffickers in the region... Many of the new drug lords... have learned their trade... behind prison bars, where they have come into contact with the "Red Command." They do not hesitate to use violence or even to engage the police in an occasional gun battle."

    Juvenile Impunity

    "In all modern societies," notes Ralf Dahrendorf, "young people account for by far the majority of all crimes, and notably serious crimes, including homicide, rape, assault, and robbery." Even so, Dr. Ib Teixeira, a respected expert on criminality in Brazil, points to the anomaly of having a 17-year-old being able to vote for the President of the Republic but not eligible to be held accountable for criminal acts.

    This person can face no more than a three-year internment in an "educational establishment." In such "educational" environments, genuinely dangerous youngsters are not properly segregated from those children who are only socially deprived. As a result, the latter have been tortured, murdered and sexually abused by the former, with the complicity of governmental authorities.

    Whereas Brazilian teenagers are authorised to vote at the age of 16, they will not be criminally liable until reaching the age of 18. According to the Brazilian Constitution, "minors under 18 years of age may not be held criminally liable and shall be subject to the rules of the special legislation."

    As a result, every 17-year-old juvenile delinquent, even if he is a notorious serial killer, can only be punished with internment for no more than three years in an "education establishment." This status of impunity explains why thousands of Brazilian children are currently working (and risking their lives) in criminal organizations. In Brazil, writes Ambassador J.O. de Meira Penna,

    "Minors often form the backbone of criminal gangs, feeling secure against police enforcement on account of legal impunity... The absurd situation that has brought disrepute to Brazil results from the legal and intellectual pretence of classifying murderous teenagers as "abandoned children." As they cannot be legally incriminated or kept out of trouble by legal means, the easy way out for brutal and ignorant police officers is simply to kill them right away, whenever possible."

    The Police

    It is not unfair to argue in general terms that police officers in Brazil are ordinarily unqualified, unprepared, highly corrupt, and poorly paid. An ancillary body to the armed forces, the state uniformed police have been accused of treating suspects as "military enemies who are to be destroyed."

    In some states, the salary of such officers begins at just a few dollars above the minimum wage fixed by legislation. For a career demanding courage, discipline, and sensitivity, the state has provided a very low salary and inadequate training. Due to visibly poor wages, honest officers end up by living with their families in poor areas normally under the control of drug gangs.

    Brazilian police officers have constantly been involved in instances of extortions, kidnappings, the torturing of suspects, arbitrary detentions, trafficking of narcotics, and executions by death squads. Rather than expelling such bad officers from the police force, some authorities have actually decorated them.

    In 1997, the government of São Paulo promoted a policeman who was responsible for at least 40 extra-legal executions. Likewise, the government of Rio de Janeiro established in 1995 "salary bonuses" for police officers engaged in "acts of bravery." In practice, as Human Rights Watch contends, such "acts of bravery" were often confused with the summary execution of suspects.

    When Rio's state police executed a record one hundred people in April 2003, public-security secretary Anthony Garotinho proudly appeared on television to explain that those killings were, in his opinion, a very "positive development." He made it very clear to the population that the police, at this time, would have limited the killings "only" to dangerous criminals.

    The explanation seemed quite relevant, for it is certainly not always that the police kill "only" criminals. On 2 April 2005, for example, the police in Rio massacred 30 people in a shantytown, in reprisal for the arrest by the government of three policemen filmed by residents of that area lobbing the heads of their victims over the wall of a house.

    The Judiciary

    The Brazilian judiciary has long been in a state of crisis and remains so in spite of several attempts to reform it. In fact, the judiciary has been so rife with corruption that years could be spent writing about them, the media regularly reporting corruption scandals among judges. It is no wonder, then, that a 1991 poll found that 30 percent of Brazilians now support vigilante justice, feeling the courts have failed them.

    Brazilian judges are often accused of participation in a vast range of corrupt activities, from embezzling public funds, to passing lenient sentences on dangerous criminals in return for bribes. In 2003, the police found a judge from the Superior Court of Justice (STJ), Brazil's second-highest court, accepting bribes to give writs of habeas corpus to drug-dealers.

    Four years earlier, in 1999, a state judge from Mato Grosso was killed only six weeks after denouncing other judges for accepting bribes from drug-dealers in exchange for a reduction in their criminal sentences.

    Judges and lawyers have also been discovered participating in huge schemes to defraud the social-security agency by means of granting excessive awards to claimants. And because the trials of criminal offences in Brazil must be held within a certain period, judicial backlog allows judges to dismiss some cases without any hearing. The practice has allowed corrupt judges to deliberately delay criminal actions so as to have such actions dismissed as not having been dealt with within the stipulated time frame.

    In addition, the last days of military government (1964-1985) coincided with an incredible rise of politicization in the Brazilian judiciary. Since the 1980s, many judges have coalesced around the idea of "alternative law," arguing that the courts should cater to the expectations of the "marginalised" and "oppressed," by resisting what they regard as "wooden and violent generalities of the state law."

    According to Megan J. Ballard, a more dogmatic interpretation of alternative law "posits that judicial power ought to be rallied to the service of poor masses in their struggles." However, as Ballard points out, "detractors argue that alternative law will lead to anarchy because it encourages judges to consider themselves to be above the law and the sole interpreters of popular will."

    When judges in a survey were presented with the basic choice of applying a clear legal norm and promoting their own vision of "social justice," three-quarters expressed their preference for the latter over the former. In doing so, they argue, the courts would be morally bound to "play an active role in reducing social inequalities."

    This is, for instance, how a judge from the Supreme Court (STF) describes his peculiar way of deciding legal cases: "Whenever I face a controversial case, I do not look for the dogma of the law. I try to create within my human character a more adequate solution."

    Behind the exhortations of such alternative-law judges we often find the post-modern doctrine of philosophers like Jacques Derrida, for whom there is no fixed meaning in language, including in the language of the law. Brazilian judges who accept this axiom repudiate objectivity in any legal norm, arguing that legal interpretation is entirely subjective, and that every judge should be free to "deconstruct" positive laws so as to decide their cases on the basis of "the best interests of the oppressed classes." This being so, because, according to law professors Ratnapala and Moens,

    Postmodernists revive the ancient philosophical skepticism about the possibility of any objective knowledge... Thus, knowledge is seen as a form of power. This view radically undermines the idea of law as rules capable of being objectively determined and impartially applied to ascertainable facts."

    Naturally, one may suggest that social inequalities could possibly justify a more politically active role for the Brazilian courts. But we only need point to the research that found that the country's judiciary is directly responsible for the reduction of Brazil's domestic private-sector investment by around 15 percent of the GDP to disabuse anyone of such a notion.

    One of the main reasons for such a reduction of investment is the perceived lack of law-enforcement of contracts by the judiciary. Indeed, a June 2006 article published by The Economist explicitly says that the Brazilian courts "cannot be counted on to uphold contracts."

    This perception that judges do not properly apply the law has discouraged private investment and reduced the willingness of debtors to pay creditors. Potential creditors are now reluctant to lend money to entrepreneurs (and the poor), as they reasonably conclude that judges will be unwilling to protect them from any opportunistic behaviour from their borrowers.

    Even when the legal norm is broadly regarded by commercial lawyers as being absolutely clear about a creditor's right, judges may prefer not to enforce it. Housing mortgages, which are very important for the working class, scarcely exist in Brazil because judges are broadly recognized as being reluctant to allow the banks to foreclose.

    In reality, however, people in Brazil tend to see judicial trials as usually uncertain and unjust. As mentioned earlier, a 1991 poll conducted by the national public-opinion agency (IBGE) found that 30 percent of Brazilians do not have faith in judges and support vigilante justice.

    These people believe that judges have failed them by passing lenient sentences against dangerous criminals, and have thus decided to support a "parallel system" of "real justice" to deal with criminality. In a study on vigilante justice, the sociologist José de Souza Martins observed:

    In the lynchings that occur in capital cities, the poor and working-class demonstrate their will. They are their own judges, rendering decision about the crimes to which they are subjected, in so doing demonstrating the importance to them of recovering a predictable system of formal justice.

    Although judicial politicisation is surely not the only reason for "popular justice," it can nonetheless be argued that judges might contribute to the problem by bringing about uncertainty and unpredictability in the formal legal system.

    If trials are normally seen as unavoidably uncertain and not objectively just, then, argues High Court of Australia judge Dyson Heydon, "the chances of peaceful settlement of disputes are reduced and the temptation to violent self-help increases."

    A Cultural Explanation

    Due to the chasm that separates law on paper and "law" in practice in Brazil, anyone wishing to understand how the country in reality works will need to consider the ways in which people are able to exempt themselves from the content of positive laws. Many laws are introduced with the almost certain knowledge that they will never be respected.

    As Rosenn explains, "Brazilians refer to law much in the same manner as one refers to vaccinations. There are those who take, and those who do not." Such laws are ineffectual despite their putative validity.

    One of the most outstanding examples of law not taking hold involves the prohibition of a popular gambling racket called jogo do bicho (animal's game). Prohibited by law for more than one hundred years, the illegal activity employs more than 700,000 people and grosses more than 150 million dollars a month.

    Although the game still remains illegal, candidates for public office have sought support from gambling bosses, "who are known to contribute heavily to political campaigns." In Rio de Janeiro, gambling bosses sponsor official events such as the world-renowned Carnaval, as well as the electoral campaigns of many politicians, including high-ranking government authorities.

    Brazilians often say that there is only one "law" that is always respected when you are rich or have "powerful" friends: a lei da impunidade ("the law of impunity"). Brazilian society is pervaded by a "double ethic," where people in theory appear to be ruled by general and abstract rules of law but in practice are far more regulated by unwritten social norms, which, as Roberto Da Matta says, "promulgate and protect the ethic of privilege and those who act on it." Accordingly, ways around the law can be obtained through a range of factors related to conditions of wealth, social status, and ties of family and friendship.

    A phrase that is typically applied by people who expect such special treatment is, "Você sabe com quem está falando?" (Do you know whom you are talking to?). It is often used by individuals who wish to somehow disobey formal rules, and as such is applicable to a vast range of situations.

    A common application is when a police officer is trying to apply a fine for a parking infringement. In such a case, it is the officer himself who risks being punished if he tries to enforce the law.

    Another phrase is "filhinhos de papai" (the father's dear sons), an expression which implies nepotism and abuse of influence. Such phrases are used when someone is trying to impose their will on other individuals and the law itself.

    It is not so much that the person declaring personal exemption from the law in question necessarily views it as being wrong or unfair. It is just that he believes the law does not apply to a person like him; to obey it would be beneath him. The premise is that he possesses the privilege of being "more equal" than others, and so exercises his prerogative to ignore the law with impunity and utter arrogance.

    In Brazil, social status is far more important than legal protection, because law is generally perceived as not being necessarily applied to everyone. Unlike a typical North American citizen, who would use the law to protect himself against any situation of social adversity, a citizen in Brazil would instead appeal to his social status.

    Respecting the law in the country thus often implies a condition of social inferiority and disadvantage when one is rendered subject to it. The fact that many people in Brazil often consider themselves above the law may be a legacy of the institution of slavery infecting contemporary Brazilian society. According to Page:

    "There are... societal ills that can be traced at least in part to slavery. For example, the slave owner could do as he pleased with his slaves without having to answer to anyone for the consequences of his actions. The master-slave relationship replicated the medieval relationship between Portuguese king and his subjects, and it came to define the link between the powerful and the powerless in Brazil... Indeed, a sense of being above the law became a prerogative of the nation's haves. The notion of impunity - the avoidance of personal responsibility - became deeply ingrained in Brazilianess and has proved a barrier to development."

    Naturally, if the powerful uphold the law only when it suits them, other members of society will endeavour to do the same. People, thereby, feel themselves less morally compelled to obey laws and start resolving social conflicts by "parallel" means, such as through social influence, corruption, and even violence (e.g. vigilante justice, lynchings, and land invasions). These alternative responses to the lack of legal protection end up undermining to an even greater extent prospects for a realisation of the rule of law.

    This article has attempted to offer some legal and extra-legal explanations for the rise of crime and violence in Brazil. In doing so, this paper has gone beyond the strict observation of legal phenomena in order to address extra-legal factors that may explain how issues of law and order may be seriously jeopardised by ongoing sociological processes.

    These are fundamental issues of an extra-legal nature that have hindered the realization of the rule of law in Brazil. They have dramatically reduced the level of social confidence in the efficacy of laws and of criminal laws in particular.

    Dr. Augusto Zimmermann, L.L.B., L.L.M., Ph.D. (Monash University) teaches constitutional law at Murdoch University, Western Australia. This paper was presented at the Criminal Law Workshop held by the John Fleming Centre for Advancement of Legal Research at the Australian National University College of Law, 7-9 February 2008.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2009
  2. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    Go ahead and publish, I just wonder why you use old stats to back up your arguments when you say you have them. How did you get them when even the the brazilian govt. doesn't publish them?
  3. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    So when you sold property you always sold it with the thought in the back of your mind that even though you hate the place and wouldn't recommend anyone to live or even buy there you still sold it? And becuase you told people the "reality on the ground" it absolved you of all guilt?

    I really don't see the difference between you and an agent who misrepresents the truth except the latter probably sells a lot more...
  4. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    Is that so, it wouldn't have anything to do with the loss of tax revenues caused by the smugglers?
  5. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    No, I've never sold one property here in Brazil. Only have helped those that bought and got screwed, or even worse, shot and nearly killed. And I never, ever, misrepresented the TRUTH!

    Unlike Mr. "Brazilian Homes" who claims that Maceio is "one of the safest cities in brazil" when in reality it's the MOST dangerous capital city! Or makes claims that "the claims of violence in Brazil is only a myth" and that it's "as safe as any other european or north american city".

    For the love of christ man, do these people have no scruples whatsoever?
  6. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    Ohh, that's exactly it genius!! 9-11 and two 10 year wars spending trillions of dollars fighting terrorism has nothing to do with it!!:rofl:
  7. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    I nearly forgot to ask, since you have no stats since 2006 and you can't possibly be travelling all over brazil and don't seem stupid enough to trust everything you read in the news, how do you know which way the crime rate is going?
  8. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    Sorry Ralph, how come if you aren't selling you are advertising your property company on your posts? You even have a testimonial of someone who bought from you on your site?

    As for agents without scruples, unfortunately there are quite a few out there, but there are some that do have some scruples. Personally I find doing research sorts the bull from the truth pretty quickly.
  9. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    My signature as well as my avatar have been here sine I first signed up. And I stand by my statement, I've never sold ONE property here. If you went to my site you noticed that it also offers consultancy services. I worked with that couple to make certain that they didn't get the other 40 english that I know that bought here.
  10. debzor

    debzor New Member

    Sorry, guys, may I butt in and answer this question about Itamaraca?

    Yes there are still 3 prisons on the island (albeit now due to close in the next few years). But the answer to the strange statistic is a little more complicated.

    The city of Itamaraca is a very small one, therefore any statistic may be disproportional. For example if 2 people lived here, and in any year the one murdered the other, we would have 1 murder per year, but a murder rate of 50% - top of any lists!

    Secondly the (estimated) prison population of 3000 represents 20% of the island's resident numbers.

    Finally, when in prison in Brazil, you are regarded as domiciled there. As well as any crimes within the prisons, if you are visiting your sick elderly relative on a weekend pass to Sao Paulo and murder someone while there - guess where the crime is statistically logged? In the city of your domicile - Itamaraca!
  11. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    So your developments have gone belly up?
  12. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    That explains the bitterness then ... I know plenty of developers doing very well, none of them will say it was easy though, but they got there. On the other side I also know plenty of wannabe developers that got screwed, but they would have got done over in any country.

  13. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    So the latest data you have is even older than the data you were quoting to me before, and it is hardly shocking :banghead:

  14. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    You asked me about statistical trends D., well, ten years qualifies for a trend. The last year that brazil released murder statistics that are available on the internet is for 2006, although Globo reported that in 2007 there were 53,000 total homicides. Naturally, as numerous different research has shown, they believe that anywhere from 10-15% of murders go unreported and undiscovered here. If you read the report by Augusto Zimmerman that I posted previously you will see how they come to that conclusion.
  15. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    You may say bitterness D. but it isn't so much towards Brazil, it's towards agents that completely misrepresent the place and say anything to make a buck. Even if it's important information that could cost someone their life. I feel quite sure that the foreigners that I know that nearly lost their lives would've liked to know the actual reality on the ground here instead of hearing, "violence in brazil is a myth, it's as safe as any big city in northern europe or north america".

    That's simply not true....far from it.
  16. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    hear hear


  17. dhoskings

    dhoskings New Member

    FIrst of all the "report" by Augusto Zimmerman is not a report it is a paper and it is in the field of sociology which he is not qualified in. Don't get me started on the science behind sociology...

    Secondly, a statistical trend is visible, but that is like using stockmarket data from 2 or 3 years ago to make decisions on your stock portfolio today. A big mistake...
  18. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    You should really read what I write a little more carefully. I never pointed to Dr. Zimmerman's paper to verify the statistical trend. I pointed to 10 years worth of data for that which was research done by the IPEA. Mr. Zimmerman's paper was reference for....

    Mr. Zimmerman offers cultural explanations as well as a thorough and honest look at how the judicial and law enforcement systems work, or more accurately, don't work, here in Brazil. And to say he's "unqualified", well, I know many people that would take issue with that.

    Well, please, show us the statistics from the last two can't. So one can only use data that is provided. I wonder what investors would do if they didn't have access to stockmarket data and other financial data concerning a company from the last two years? Would seem quite strange, wouldn't it? Wonder why that is?

    As I stated previously, last year OGlobo reported that there were a total of 53,000 murders in brazil in 2007, that was an increase from 2006, once again, sticking with the trend of brazil being MORE dangerous today than yesteryear. And if you can't take my word on that, well, that's not my problem.

    Once again, the issue is with those saying that brazil is "safe" and danger and violence here are "myths". That's misleading to put it mildly. When one makes statements such as "Maceio is one of the safest cities in Brazil" and it currently rates as the most dangerous capital city in the country, well my friend, they're obviously either A.) crazy as hell or B.) have no clue whatsoever of what they're talking about or C.) purposefully misleading people.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2009
  19. JMBroad

    JMBroad New Member

    Sorry to hear about your development Ralph and while I agree that Brazil shouldn't be represented as "as safe as Europe" I still haven't had any problems here yet (knock on wood)... Oh yes and in case you missed it, while you were away I moved to Brazil full time to work for a developer out here who focuses on low-income housing for Brazilian families.

    Regarding licensing and bureaucracy, I know it can be tough but it can be done - in the last two years we've delivered two developments, are almost finished building our third and are processing the licenses for another two, one of which will probably be launched next month... It just takes a hell of a lot of work, sweat and negotiating to get it done.
  20. RalphJ

    RalphJ New Member

    Thanks JM, but to be honest, we don't feel too bad. We're not amongst the minority in this area. We've made money on the beachfront land, but naturally that profit is offset by all the other expenses we had in pursuing the project. Brazil is just incredibly difficult to do business in as stated and supported by previous posts, one of the most difficult places in the world.

    Good for you concerning your new job. I would assume that he's an established Brazilian developer seeing you've gotten so many licenses so quickly. And naturally, the wheels need to be greased whether you're a brazilian or foreigner.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2009

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