Drug gangs in Brazil’s favelas enforce coronavirus lockdown

Published in Financial Times

By Robert Muggah

With president Jair Bolsonaro dismissing the pandemic as “sniffles” and criticising regional lockdown measures, the country’s drug gangs and paramilitary groups have stepped in to enforce social distancing to combat the spread of coronavirus. “Whoever is caught on the street will learn how to respect the measure. We want the best for the population. If the government is unable to manage, organised crime resolves,” read one message sent to residents of a Rio de Janeiro slum. Another message, delivered to residents of a different slum, read: “We are on the streets taking risks so that you can sleep in peace, we leave our families to protect yours, so, then respect the order we have given.” It warned that for anyone caught on the street after 10pm, “it will be bad!”

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