BRASILIA, Brazil, AP
Brazil will invest nearly US$3.3 billion (euro2.6 billion) on new prisons and social programs over the next five years in an effort to reduce violence, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Monday. The Justice Ministry plan calls for the construction of 160 prisons, scholarships for police officers and an expansion of social programs in poor areas where crime is rising, such as in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Silva said. The president said “the majority of the problems in Brazil can be solved with more opportunities” for the nation’s youth, rather than by simply boosting law enforcement. “We are betting that it is possible to recuperate the Brazilian youth who have been misguided,” Silva said. The government aims to cut the nation’s homicide rate from 29 per 100,000 residents to about 11 per 100,000 residents by 2012, the plan’s coordinator Ronaldo Teixeira said earlier Monday. The plan will also focus on battling corruption and other sources of crime, but will not increase the 575,000 police officers on the streets in Latin America’s largest country or upgrade their equipment. The new prisons will each be able to house 400 inmates, and educational opportunities will be offered to some of the nation’s 420,000 prisoners, Teixeira said. The country’s prisons are overcrowded and in poor condition, and many facilities are run by gang leaders behind bars. Justice Ministry Tarso Genro warned that the plan is not expected to produce “spectacular” results immediately, but that it would make a positive impact in three to five years. “This is the right path, for sure,” said Rubem Cesar Fernandes, director of Viva Rio, a non-governmental organization based in Rio de Janeiro that promotes peace and social development.
“But now these proposals must be implemented, that’s the challenge.”