It’s undeniable that Brazil is historically forged by innumerous violations that are updated at every historical moment, but it is important to highlight that state institutions are the organizers of the methods through which those violations can occur in a naturalized way.
In the living conditions of Black people in the favelas and suburbs, this idea of rights is something estranged from everyday life, an almost unreachable sphere due to the demands of practical and material life.
An example that illustrates the vast process of negation/non-access to social rights in Baixada is how public facilities are perceived. Hospitals, legal assistance centers, courts, and police stations are identified as places of great psychic suffering because of the ways that they deal with the public.
The public spaces, squares, markets, and streets are abandoned with little structure and maintenance. Cultural facilities, public schools, and community centers exist in minimal functional conditions and, in most cases, are located only in the commercial centers. That scenario makes us consider the actions planned by the state for Baixada Fluminense.
The culture and recreation policies do not reach favela and peripheral territories, social assistance is completely dismantled and, with respect to the law enforcement policies for predominantly Black territories, the political choice of the state is to execute a confrontational policy, with armed conflicts in streets and alleys.
The absence of public policies is also a political choice of the state; it is not a mistake, an error, or something random. For example, the law enforcement policy of Baixada Fluminense is one of militialization. The militias act under the state’s veil of legality and take advantage of the legislation that legitimizes and exempts police abuse. They also take advantage of the public law enforcement apparatus in order to profit, dominate, murder, and rape bodies—primarily Black bodies. Furthermore, they use the symbolic and material power of the police to guarantee impunity.
Facing this scenario, to believe that it is possible to build public policies in territories dominated by militias without having direct relations with the corrupt political and militia groups themselves is pure naivete—since the distinct factions of militias occupy the legislative, judiciary, and executive branches in all municipalities of the Baixada Fluminense.
We don’t conceive of the militia as a single homogeneous group; on the contrary, there are different fractions of power disputing territories that are highly profitable. In areas ruled by the militia, everything from the distribution of the apartments4TN: In English, My House, My Life. It was the first Brazilian national program for public housing. to the supply of gas, TV, stores, parking lots, and so-called “private security” are executed by different militia fractions that dispute the political control of the territory—making these territories an additional space for the accumulation of profits, since these services did not previously cost any money. Besides the extortion of store owners and provision of loan sharking services, these groups exploit illegal TV and internet signals, alternative transportation, and even the control of public services such as social assistance, housing, and health care.
We face a scenario of consolidation of the militia as a political state project for suburban, favela, and peripheral areas. The management and organization of social policies in these predominantly Black and poor territories are carried out by these political organizations that operate within the state.
Therefore, the civil society’s participation in the elaboration of municipal public policy plans and the spaces for participation and social control are shared with the leaderships of militia fractions and death squads.