THE BLOG
08/15/2016 01:35 pm ET Updated Aug 16, 2017

Brazil Is Failing To Deliver The Promised Olympic Legacy Of Safety And Security

ADRIAN DENNIS via Getty Images

Since the beginning of the 2016 Rio Olympics, people have focused on the undeniable beauty of the opening ceremony and the daily competitions, but one question emerges: What legacy will Brazil leave behind? As the host of the most important sporting event in the world, will it promote solidarity, cooperation, and peace? And above all, what happened to the promise of a stronger security legacy, with special attention to inalienable human rights?

In the weeks leading up to the Games, we witnessed a spectacle of the increasing militarization of Rio's security forces. These forces were patrolling busy areas where thousands of tourists were gathering to ostentatiously display the security they had been deployed to provide.

Once more, we saw a frightening military parade on the streets with heavily armed squads bearing automatic rifles and other types of military equipment.

The same tactics had been adopted during the 2014 World Cup, and other major events that have taken place in Rio de Janeiro. This time, however, security forces have a greater presence on the streets.

  Security cannot come at the expense of human rights and the fundamental principles of democracy.

We know from previous experiences in the favelas, and other poor communities in the suburbs that military intervention tends to lead to a trail of violations of the basic rights of residents, accompanied by extravagant death tolls. What we've been witnessing in Rio de Janeiro is a permanent police-led state of war.

Clearly, we cannot underestimate the risks of terrorist attacks or other forms of violence to the Olympic athletes and visitors. Fear and insecurity have become part of our new reality as a country, and we need to be prepared. But security cannot come at the expense of human rights and the fundamental principles of democracy.

However, what we are witnessing at present is the absolute abandonment of the promise the government made 10 years ago when it announced a major shift in public security. At the time, the authorities launched Police Pacification Units, known as UPPs, in Rio's favelas. However, the UPPs ended up resorting to confrontation and violence. The project lacked consistency, integration, and effective support from the different levels of government.

At this point, we can say that we have lost the opportunity to restructure the public safety system. We are dealing with the abuse of military force and the criminalization of the residents of favelas and other poor communities. Over the past few months, the police's crackdown on drug traffickers has left a legacy of death, pain and horror.

  We can say without fear of being hyperbolic that the government has declared a real war on slums, and particularly against young black people.

The Police Pacification Units could not succeed without the support of other powers, especially the executive and the judiciary branches.

The current situation can be read as a wartime scenario: basic rights are compromised, as the police do not distinguish between victims and perpetrators. The state is represented almost entirely by the police, and civilians are no longer treated as citizens.

We can say without fear of being hyperbolic that the government has declared a real war on slums, and particularly against young black people.

The warnings issued by experts, the mobilization of residents and victims' families, the national and international outcry from human rights organizations and even the occasional complaints about lack of resources and support from the State Secretary of Security of Rio de Janeiro were not able to inspire the effective prioritization of public security.

But public safety should be treated as more than a police issue.

We are currently witnessing the reinforcement of stereotypes, and the implicit permission for police to immediately resort to lethal force without fear of punishment. The ineffectiveness of the judicial system to punish legal violations committed by police, and the failure of the prosecution to fulfill its constitutional duty to oversee police activity has reinforced this state of impunity.

Civil society was initially supportive of the pacification project. However, the program brought with it the criminalization of favela residents and rising militarization -- largely taking place in the media's blind spot.

  The total militarization of police forces has rendered the slums and its people easy targets of an irrational war where the biggest loser is the rule of law.

Since 2009, when Rio was declared the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games, police forces have killed more than 2,600 people in the city, according to official data from the Public Security Institute of Rio de Janeiro.

About 20 percent of all homicides in the city are caused by the police. These shocking figures do not seem to rouse neither public opinion nor the authorities.

If we take a look at what has been happening in recent months, we would clearly see the shameful increase in police brutality.

The number of police-inflicted deaths between April and June of 2016 show a 103 percent-increase compared to the same period in 2015.

A total of 124 killings were committed by the police in 90 days -- more than one death per day. The majority of murdered citizens were black youth living in slums and suburbs, where the increase in routine police operations has had the direct result of an increase in the number of deaths.

It is important to point out that we are only referring to situations in which police killed citizens on duty and reported the causes as legitimate -- which often turn out to be fabricated. The truth is that most of them were murdered.

Figures also show that as of mid-June this year, tens of police officers were murdered, most of them while off-duty.

This is a war without winners. The highest price is being paid by the victims in poor neighborhoods, where indiscriminate actions of war proved to be failing to control organized crime.

The promise of a security policy aimed at guaranteeing rights and bringing about peace has transformed into a nightmare. The total militarization of police forces has rendered the slums and its people easy targets of an irrational war where the biggest loser is the rule of law.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Brazil. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.