Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Battle for Sao Paulo

While I'd heard that gang warfare had broken out in Sao Paulo, I didn't realize how bad things were until I read this piece by Tom Phillips.

The violence [in Sao Paulo] was unprecedented in scale, even for a city... renowned for its high crime rate. So bloody were the attacks [on police and citizens] that politicians, media outlets and academics alike have, in its wake, begun describing the start of an 'urban guerrilla war'.

It is a drastic and problematic conclusion - yet one which is in many ways borne out by numerical comparisons with official war zones. During the recent 34-day conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, just over 1,000 civilians are thought to have been killed in Lebanon. In Iraq, 117 British soldiers have been killed since the country was invaded in 2003, while 23 have been killed since the beginning of August in Afghanistan. In Sao Paulo, the figures are no less startling. According to coroners' reports, at the height of May's violence at least 492 people died of gunshot wounds in Sao Paulo state in just over a week.|Guardian|(emphasis added)
There has been so much violence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Darfur of late that Sao Paulo hardly gets any media attention at all.

After all, Sao Paulo's violence is just part of the ongoing struggle between organized crime and law enforcement (even if an extreme example), which is far less troubling than the sectarian violence, ethnic cleansing, and state-supported genocide that we're seeing elsewhere in the world these days.

It's enough to make you appreciate that benefits of living in a police state, even if it is dysfunctional and oppressive in its own way.

1 comment:

DR said...

I don't think the characterization of the dispute is entirely correct. As I recall, the conflict wasn't between organized crime and law enforcement but, rather, between law enforcement and a militant faction of the land reform movement.

(Though this was a couple of months ago, so it's possible that there were two periods of unrest and I missed one of them)