January 2, 2007
Brazilian President Luis Inacio da Silva was inaugurated for a second time yesterday, as the security situation in his country continues to deteriorate. Last week 19 people died as narcotics-trade gangs set fire to buses and launched attacks on several police stations in Rio de Janeiro. In response, the new governor of that state, Sergio Cabral, said he would welcome Brazilian army troops to put down the gang uprising. Da Silva declared "This barbarity that happened in Rio de Janeiro can't be treated like common crime. It's terrorism and must be dealt with by the strong hand of the Brazilian state." See CNN.com. Sao Paulo suffered a similar wave of gang warfare last May. The spread of such violence across the country is very disturbing, suggesting it is part of an orchestrated campaign. It's ironic that the leftist populist Da Silva has been put in the position of having to crack down to restore order. He renewed his vows to spend more federal money to lift people out of poverty, but it may not be enough. Or, it may be that da Silva's promises have raised unrealistic hopes for immediate socio-economic improvement, creating bitter disappointment. Although successful in economic terms overall, income distribution in Brazil is highly skewed, and class envy is high.