Brazil’s far-right president sends army into city to fight crime

The government crackdown is an extension of strict law-and-order policies by new right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro.

Brazil has deployed military troops in the northern city of Fortaleza, with orders to stop a spike in criminal violence.

Justice minister Sergio Moro ordered the deployment after reports in Brazilian media showed gangs torching service stations.

Dozens of attacks have forced residents to stay at home.

The intervention comes weeks after far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected president last year on a hardline law-and-order slate, took office.

In recent days banks, police stations and other buildings have been destroyed by flames and a pillar supporting an overpass was badly damaged by a bomb.

Burned out cars and buses now litter the streets in the city.

Resident Eder Avalcente said the violence had made it difficult for people to move.

“As of yesterday, we experienced terror in Fortaleza,” he said. “Today, I did not go to work, I was scared because I was told… there was no way to guarantee safety there. That is what people are living through.”

Although the cause of the spike is unclear it was reported that it is linked to stricter rules in state prisons, including cellphone signal blockers and an end to the policy of separating inmates according to gang affiliation.

Brazil’s prison gangs have a reach far beyond the country’s jails, which have the world’s third largest population behind the United States and China, with nearly 730,000 inmates in 2016.

Around 300 military personnel are arriving in Fortaleza and more than 10 other cities across the state of Caera over the weekend.

The state’s governor belongs to the Workers’ Party, which is now the left-wing opposition following Mr Bolsonaro’s ascent to power.

As part of his pledge to crack down on crime, the president has promised to give immunity to soldiers and police who kill while on duty. He also said he would ease gun laws to allow “good” citizens to challenge armed criminals.

He praised the operation in Fortaleza as “apt, rapid and effective”.

“The people of Ceara need help at this moment,” he said earlier this week. “The measures were taken, it was necessary that Ceara’s government sent a request about the real need for the force.”