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Benjamin Lessing
Some Criminal Governance fieldwork almost-live-tweeting, at suggestion, from João Pessoa, Brasil, where I visited a neighborhood dominated by the Okaida prison gang last week. THREAD
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Okaida is one of Brazil's many 'facções' (factions), sophisticated gangs (like the Comando Vermelho and PCC) that arise in prison and come to project power onto the streets. They subsume street gangs into their structure, so that a city's favelas end up divvied btw a few gangs.
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
This process happened in the 1980s in Rio, and in the early 2000s in São Paulo. In much of the rest of Brazil, it's been happening for the last five years or so. That's why I've been going to these places, to talk to people who saw it happen.
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
In João Pessoa, I talked to the president of the Resident's Association (AM). He was clear: since Okaida (OKD) came, things are much better. "The faction banned killing and robbery. There used to be 30 murders a year; now it's basically zero." But that's not all...
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Okaida governs. "Yes, they imposed rules on us, but they are good rules." Here they are: Respect residents. Don't use drugs in front of kids. Instruct the young ones. Don't talk to cops. Be collectivist. Don't steal in or near the community. And at bottom, "Put residents first."
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
The bans on property crime and violence has multiple effects. Obviously it directly helps residents. It also helps Okaida attract customers from nearby wealthy, high-rises to its drug corners (bocas) inside the community. But the AM president added something I wasn't expecting:
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
"Before, state health and social workers were afraid to enter our neighborhood. The gang made a rule, 'Nothing bad happens to them.' Now they come in, do their rounds, tranquilo. Residents are thrilled, quality of life improved." Criminal Governance helping extend reach of state!
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Great graffiti too:
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Oh, and the name "Okaida"? A Brazilian-ization of Al-Qaeda. The group formed in prison, apparently after its founders threw a grenade at rivals, shouting "we're terrorists! Al-Qaeda style!" The survivors formed a rival group, named, naturally, Estados Unidos (United States) 🤦🏻‍♂️
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
So, even if the US has moved on from Al Qaeda to bigger threats like the EU 🤪, in Paraíba, Okaida and Estados Unidos still fight for turf. Okaida is winning, w/ ~70% of inmate population and more favelas. It's also more organized, w/ a clear hierarchy and governing principles.
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Okaida is also brazen. Here's a crazy ad it posted to FB: "First Okaida Ball, João Pessoa. Ready-to-kill-bastard-cops Posse, don't miss it." "No drugs allowed in." (Presumably because they want you to buy theirs). At bottom: "3 years of Dominion"
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Estados Unidos (EUA) is far less organized, a residual group of bosses who didn't want to join Okaida. But they seem to have allied with the PCC, at least in the small town of Patos, where these photos were taken (not by me).
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Despite Paraíba's turf war, homicide rates have fallen for 7 straight yrs. Partly bc of solid policy and policing innovations. Partly, I think, bc intra-slum pacification via Okaida governance. But part may be interaction: policies give gangs means and motives to reduce violence.
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Similar stories in all Brazil: a shifting cast of prison gangs govern expanding inmate and slum populations; state and national homicide rates vary wildly as turf wars heat up and cool down; citizens depend on gang governance for security and even access to state services.
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Benjamin Lessing Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
Back in the community, it's a peaceful night. A horse munches quietly as residents politely wait their turn on a narrow bridge over a filthy river. This place was violent, unsafe, and isolated; now it's bustling, orderly. Why did it take a prison gang to bring about change? END
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anão de mini opala Aug 7
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Thread Reader App Aug 7
Bonjour the unroll you asked for: Thread by : "Some Criminal Governance fieldwork almost-live-tweeting, at suggestion, from João Pessoa, Brasil, where I visit […]" Share this if you think it's interesting. 🤖
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Lucas Arruda Aug 7
Replying to @BigBigBLessing
I guess the lesson is. Where the State is corrupt and fails, a "new" state comes in and governs it.
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