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A shakeup for Rio de Janeiro state police

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Felipe Dana/AP

(Read caption) People carry the coffin of Judge Patricia Acioli during her funeral in Niteroi, Brazil, on Aug. 12, 2011. Judge Acioli, known for being tough on corrupt police, especially against rogue police who have formed illegal vigilante gangs, was gunned down outside her home in August. Police chief Mário Sérgio Duarte recently stepped down after it was discovered that he had appointed the police officer allegedly responsible for planning Acioli's assassination.

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There’s consensus in Rio de Janeiro that police corruption and criminality must be reduced. What we don’t know is if it’s possible to achieve this to a significant degree in an environment where politicians tomam posse (take possession [of office]) and then bring in trusted people to occupy cargos de confiança (posts of confidence).

Widespread corruption and scant trust in society at large mean that every deed and every word, especially on the part of public figures, requires the interpretation of a Torah scholar. Even the media, with needs that don’t always match those of readers and viewers, cannot be trusted.

Thus we get tweets such as this one, from former State Public Safety Secretary Marcelo Itagiba: “New commander changes everything once again. One dum-dum steps down and another one takes his place. Institutional instability. There’s no line of action. Only a changing of the guard.” Mr. Itagiba served under Governor Anthony Garotinho, accused of corruption and recently found guilty of illegal media usage for electoral purposes.

Because reading between the lines is a time-consuming process, most people either mistrust all information unless it comes from a close friend or relative – or they turn to conspiracy theory. Like gossip, theories are easy to invent and spread. And a conspiracy theory is occasionally correct.

So it could well be that, as Itagiba and many other observers posit, the new public safety policy is mere window-dressing for Governor $érgio (this is how Itagiba writes his name) Cabral’s money-grubbing. After all, his dubious connections, long suspected, came to light just a few months ago.

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