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Lula’s ministers of Justice and the Civil House’s dramatic legacies of violence raise public safety alarm

By Gabriel Sestrem

The management of public security in the administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT, progressive-globalist), under Minister Flávio Dino’s command, hit the skids at the beginning of the new federal administration.

Since few proposals were made in the partial government program and during the election campaign, the scenario that began with Lula’s new mandate is characterized by many ideological speeches and few clear definitions of the issue.

One of the hopes for concrete action against crime lay in the revival of the National Program for Public Safety with Citizen Participation (Pronasci).

The program was launched on Wednesday (15) – still in a tone of electoral campaign -with several nods to Lula’s support base, criticism of political opponents and the police forces, and, mainly, without measures to confront organized crime.

The announcement worries public security specialists, who point to a lack of pragmatism in the management of the theme by the PT government.

With the growing concern about managing security at the federal level, the Gazeta do Povo outlet assessed how two Brazilian states governed by Lula’s ministers, Bahia and Maranhão, were managed in recent years to understand what can be expected from now on regarding the fight against crime.

The Brazilian Northeast. (Photo internet reproduction)
The Brazilian Northeast. (Photo internet reproduction)

Both states were governed in recent years with a vision quite close to what Lula announced he intended to follow.

While Maranhão was the last eight years under the command of the minister Flávio Dino himself, Bahia has been governed since 2007 by members of the Workers’ Party (PT); Rui Costa, current Minister of the Civil House, was in charge of the state executive between 2015 and 2022.

When analyzing the data from the Brazilian Yearbook of Public Safety 2022, prepared by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety (FBSP), what draws attention is that when they retired from office last year, the former governors left dramatic indices related to homicide, drug trafficking and other crimes, such as car theft and robberies of commercial establishments and people on the streets.

And the worst: the increase in violence in the states occurs while the country’s average significantly improved some of these indicators, as is the case of homicides.

The crime of vehicle robbery, for example, increased by 90% in Maranhão in the last year of Dino’s administration, while the country’s average was a reduction of 4% in this crime.

Bahia has the highest homicide rate since the beginning of the historical series calculated by the FBSP in 2011 when the PT had already governed the state for four years.

While the country went through a significant drop in violent deaths from 2018 on, the state of Bahia maintained the same levels of violence.

Per capita spending on public safety in the two states is also among the worst in the country, according to the latest edition of the Yearbook.

The PT governments have progressively reduced spending in this area in recent years – to get an idea, only Piauí registered lower per capita spending on security than Bahia and Maranhão over the last four years.

As a legacy, Rui Costa left Bahia as the leader in the incidence of several crimes

The election of Jerônimo Rodrigues to the Bahian government last year represents the consolidation of the PT party hegemony in the state – the fourth most populous state in the country according to IBGE, with 14.9 million inhabitants.

The mandate that began this year is the fifth consecutive under party management.

Rui Costa. (Photo internet reproduction)
Rui Costa. (Photo internet reproduction)

Between 2007 and 2014, Bahia was governed by Jaques Wagner, who was Lula’s minister and today is the government’s leader in the Senate, and from 2015 to 2022, Rui Costa, the current Minister of the Civil House.

What is most striking when analyzing crime figures during the PT administration is that since 2011, when the FBSP started to monitor the public safety indicators in Brazil annually, the state has led the homicide ranking among all the federation units in the country.

The apex was in 2016 when 7.1 thousand violent deaths were recorded in Bahia, while the country’s average – in much pulled by Bahia – was 2.3 thousand homicides.

The only state that in some years came close to Bahia’s numbers was Rio de Janeiro, which lives a unique scenario of urban warfare due to the dominance of criminal factions linked to drug trafficking in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.

In 2021, while Brazil reached the lowest number of violent deaths since 2011, with a 6.5% drop, only four states recorded increased homicides, among them Bahia.

That same year, the state dramatically increased its numbers in several crimes, appearing in the first places in the ranking of latrocínio (robbery followed by death), vehicle theft, robbery of commercial establishments, residences, and banks, robbery of people on the streets and drug trafficking.

In most of these crimes, Bahia went against the rest of the country, which presented a reduction in crimes.

In the cases of crimes that also registered an increase in the rest of Brazil, Bahia had much more expressive increases, almost ten times more in some cases.

By way of comparison, while the country’s average for the crime of robbery of commercial establishments was 6.5% higher, Bahia registered an increase of 63.6%, taking the lead in this offense.

Examples of the few crimes that the state has managed to reduce are robbery and theft of cell phones – both registered a drop between 2018 and 2021.

However, the scenario for the state’s public security professionals is unfavorable. Bahia had the third-highest number of police officers killed in 2021, only behind Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.


Sérgio Habib, who was Bahia’s public safety secretary in the 90s and is a professor of Criminal Law, points out that the main crime problems in the state are linked to crimes resulting from drug traffickings, such as homicides and robberies.

“Bahia is almost the national champion today in these indices of trafficking and crimes involving trafficking. The state leads in the number of homicides, especially in the peripheries, but this has also grown greatly in wealthy neighborhoods,” he declares.

For him, the PT administrations in power have not seen security as a priority.

“There was a lot of investment in road construction and paving, for example, but I think that the PT government did not give the proper importance to public safety, and the population lacked this,” says Habid.

Flavio Dino. (Photo internet reproduction)
Flávio Dino. (Photo internet reproduction)

“Citizens can’t go out on the streets at night; they can’t use public parks. During the day, there are also many dangers, like bank robberies and other things. This is a management problem. Public security is the ‘Achilles heel’ of the government of Bahia,” says Habib.

For Henrique Quintanilha, a criminal lawyer from Bahia and former professor at UFBA, the PT governors could not stop the advance of criminal factions, which have expanded to the Northeast and North regions in recent years the country.

“Seeing a more permissive posture with drug trafficking, highly complex criminal organizations began to see the capital, Salvador, as a viable alternative to the traditional hubs of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, forming a new hub of high crime, which did not exist two decades ago,” says the criminalist.

“Trafficking arrived here and found no resistance,” he points out.

Besides the precarious structure for the performance of the military and civil police – which has an even greater impact in the interior of the state -, Quintanilha regrets episodes such as the statement made last year by Ricardo Mandarino, Bahia’s Secretary of Public Safety during Rui Costa’s administration, about the decriminalization of marijuana use.

In a video that went viral, Mandarino claimed that the drug would “emancipate” people and “increase creativity,” ignoring research on side effects and increased crime.

“[Drugs] take you out of your mental ties; they make you mentally emancipated, which is what we need to be. We can’t stay in these little boxes,” Mandarino said at the time.

“When the drug dealers, who are the ones who move this major criminality, hear this from a public safety secretary, it is clear that it sends a message of incentive to crime,” says Quintanilha.


Home to several national leaders of the movement, Bahia is one of the most important places for the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST).

The scene of frequent land invasions until 2018, the state registered a significant reduction in these acts in the last four years under the administration of former president Jair Bolsonaro (PL, right).

However, the new Incra policy – of granting definitive land titles to rural producers and weakening the power of MST militants over producers – has generated a series of conflicts, especially in the southern region of the state, with the registration of aggressions and various vandalisms carried out by militants of the movement.

In the Gazeta do Povo reports about the crimes, several rural producers who had broken with the movement told the newspaper that the Military Police had repeatedly refused to answer their calls.

According to the sources, police officers informally mentioned to the farmers the existence of an order from the state government to the Military Police Command so that military police officers would not enter MST settlement areas.

Bahia is one of the most important places for the radical left Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST). (Photo internet reproduction)
Bahia is one of the most important places for the radical left Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST). (Photo internet reproduction)

At the time, the report questioned the Bahia Military Police and the governor’s office about the denunciations – both did not return the requests for information.

Since the beginning of the new government, land invasions have occurred again without Lula or other members of the upper echelon of the government condemning the acts or taking concrete steps to inhibit them.

“I believe that there was leniency from previous Bahia governments regarding these invasions. Unfortunately, the party accepts and encourages these acts.”

“There were invasions, and when the police were called, there was a certain difficulty for the landowners to get the police to vacate the land,” says Habib.

“At a time when there is a lack of interest from the government in enforcing these orders, it becomes difficult. So I don’t think the military or civilian authority is to blame.”

“I attribute that to the government itself. I don’t think there was an order not to do it, but rather a leniency, a ‘look-through’,” he adds.

Under Flávio Dino’s administration, Maranhão had a peak in homicides

Flávio Dino was at the head of the Maranhão government for two terms, and the state’s current governor is his successor.

During his term, Lula’s current Minister of Justice and Public Safety failed to reduce crime rates in the state.

The year 2016, the second under his command, was marked by the highest number of violent deaths in Maranhão in the entire historical series calculated by FBSP, with more than 2,300 homicides.

Starting in 2018, when several states began to reduce violent deaths, Maranhão registered a small decrease in the rates in 2018 and 2019 but returned to the previous level starting in 2020.

When he announced his departure from the government to be a pre-candidate for the Federal Senate last year, Dino left the state in a very critical scenario, according to the Public Security Yearbook 2022.

The year before he left, the state had, by far, the highest proportional increase in vehicle robberies in the country – the increase was 90.4%.

By comparison, the second highest proportional increase occurred in Acre at 25%.

Maranhão also occupied, in 2021, one of the first places in the ranking of states with the highest increase in robbery crimes, behind only Bahia, Amazonas, Amapá, and Rondônia.

The state also had the highest proportional increase in robbery on the streets, with a 21.4% increase, while the country registered an average reduction of 7.5%.

Maranhão also did very poorly in crimes such as robbery in commercial establishments, cell phone theft, and drug trafficking.

Regarding the security forces, the number of policemen killed on duty remained the same last year.

However, the number of policemen who took their own lives stands out. According to the latest edition of the Yearbook, Maranhão leads the country in cases of suicide among security agents, with an increase of 210%, compared to the average of 59.7% in the rest of the country.

With information from Gazeta do Povo

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