It’s generally well known that Brazil, like many (most?) of the world’s countries, is pretty much involved in a war against crime, more so when it comes to drug trafficking-related offenses. Nationwide (and here we’re talking about 8.5 million square kilometers), LE forces face extremely tight budget restrictions which reflect into low training standards and lack of adequate material, in general, and armament, in particular. On the other hand, criminals find no limitations in their funds to buy and bring into the country whatever guns they find available, mainly from neighboring countries like Paraguay and Bolivia, major, well-known illegal weapons sources. Together, these two countries share 4,788 km of lightly patrolled border lines with Brazil, most of which in rivers. For the record, other South American nations with borders to Brazil are Peru (2,995 km), Venezuela (2,199 km), Colombia (1,644 km), Guiana (1,605 km), Argentina (1,261 km), Uruguay (1,068 km), Suriname (93 km), and the French Guiana (730 km). Yessir, it’s one helluva task to keep an efficient eye on all that, mostly jungle, area, responsibility of an also limited-resources Federal Police Department and, to a lesser extent, the Brazilian Army.
In the Rio de Janeiro State, a major area of conflict, the first line of defense is the PMERJ – Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, whose 46,800 men and women (of which only 4,400, less than 10 per cent, are on actual street duties each day) have the difficult task of providing acceptable levels of security to a population of 16.46 million souls in a territory of about 43,000 sq km, slightly larger than Denmark, for example. Sadly to say, the Military Police force has an alarming rate of casualties, which in 2016 alone totaled 143 deaths, most of them (105) off-duty. As a comparison, U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan 2016 were 16… Yes, criminals virtually hunt LE agents in Rio!
TFB update for the month of January, 2017: 19 killed, 44 wounded.
Major crime-fighting efforts are, of course, concentrated in the State’s capital city, Rio de Janeiro, a major center of drug-trafficking activities. An example of how criminals take the necessary steps to assure control of their areas of activity is the growing number of guns they carry and use. This is exposed by the quantity of rifles that were seized by PMERJ in 2016 alone: 328! Statistics made available to TFB show that 111 were AR-15 platforms, 94 were AK types, and 50 were FALs, with the rest including Ruger Mini-14s, H&K G3s, SIG SG.542s, Armalite AR-10s (new makes), etc. “Other” and “non-identified” rifles totaled 26 examples, these including several “Frankenstein” contraptions.
TFB update: 42 rifles seized in January, 2017.
Handguns, of course, also abound here, with current criminal use of pistols, rather than revolvers, being the vast majority. Confiscated guns from bad guys’ hands call the attention for the extreme variety of foreign-made types found, other than the expected local (i.e. Taurus and, in smaller numbers, Imbel) models that usually re-enter Brazil after being legally exported to neighboring countries. Generally considered a status symbol “must” is the 9x19mm Glock 17 or 19, mainly so when equipped with a full-auto firing mechanism and large-capacity (30-33 rounds) magazines. A relatively new incomer to the scene in Brazil are Turkish-made 9x19mm pistols such as the Canik TP9 and the Girsan Yavuz 16 Compact, examples of which have been seized both before and after reaching criminal hands. Here and there, other somewhat unusual items show up, such as RONI-type ACPs (Adaptive Carbine Platforms), more often than not with a selective-fire Glock inside. Oh, yes: pistol-caliber (usually 9x19mm) AK-type submachine guns are also eventually apprehended.