The Use of Psychological Operations by Organized Crime
By Dialogo February 13, 2013
Despite the fact that organized crime did not have combat power to fight against the Brazilian Army during the pacification of the Alemão and Penha shanty towns, the perpetrators continued to promote hostile actions throughout the entire occupation, especially in the psychological operations field.
Communist revolutionaries introduced the techniques, tactics and procedures used by Brazil’s organized crime in this irregular warfare during the 60s in Cuba, China, Albania, and other Iron Curtain countries. Later, the Brazilian guerrilla Carlos Marighela summarized it by writing the Mini Manual of the Urban Guerrilla (1969), known and currently used by the major terrorist and criminal organizations in the world. These lessons were disseminated when members of the armed struggle and common criminals were placed in the same cells inside the Ilha Grande penitentiary, in the early 70s.
The Comando Vermelho (Red Command) was born from the symbioses between politicians and common criminals, which was the first organized crime gang in Brazil. Currently, it has international connections with several segments of transnational narcoterrorism, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC).
During the pacification of some slums in Rio de Janeiro, it was possible to observe psychological actions directed at several different public audiences in the scenario: the Army troops, the criminals themselves, the local communities and the general public. Similarly, what is known as white, gray, and black propaganda was developed throughout the operation.
In the beginning, graffiti on walls was removed by the troops prior to the pacification. However, new drawings and paintings praising the criminal gang and the initials of their main leaders were found in other places, displaying acronyms referring to the Comando Vermelho. More graffiti, including drawings and sentences mocking the actions of the Army, showed up during intervals between patrols.
During very tense situations, and taking advantage of riots, banners and posters that were prepared in advance showed up, giving the impression that the mob had been grouped to increase the effect and visibility of the material. There were also very well written pamphlets along with the banners, manipulating and distorting the facts, and trying to create mistrust in the Pacification Force.
The Comando Vermelho filmed and still films their actions during conflicts and then they edit the videos, showing the Brazilian forces supporters as targets along with negative images of the Police or Armed Forces, and dissatisfaction of the population because of the social exclusion of the slums.
These videos have captions and music in the background, which praise organized crime. After they are ready, they are posted on YouTube and other Internet sites, even on social networks.
The criminals also resort to diffusing rumors to threaten the troops and their collaborators through the community, simulating radio conversations (aware they are being monitored).
They emphasize strength or association to terror by wrapping the drugs they traffic in specific ways. Besides clearly showing the contents, they use slogans such as “Libyan rebels”, “Somali corner”, “Respect the crime”, or “Missile launcher”. They always have the initials CVRL for the Portuguese acronym of Comando Vermelho Rogério Lengruber, the founder of the group, and some include an image of a drug dealer or a weapon.
Maintaining the law of silence in the community is enforced through terror. The drug dealers who have criminal records with the Police have left the area, but those with a clean record remain in the community, fostering small volume illegal activities directed mainly at the local consumers. The collaborators of the Armed Forces have to be very discrete, with the risk of being “brought to justice” by the criminals.
There are many rudimentary studios that produce low quality music with extremely vulgar language, praising explicit sex, organized crime, and depreciating the Police or the Army. These songs are very popular inside the slums and they are used to promote the moral degradation of the community to strengthen the criminals and to provoke the supporters of the forces. Though constantly repressed, it is often difficult to identify where the sound comes from inside the labyrinth of alleys and streets in a slum with a perimeter of 10 miles and 400,000 residents.
At times, in the middle of the night, pre-set triggers were prepared in homemade devices with a timer to set parked vehicles on fire, but they were neutralized before being detonated. In other instances, barricades were prepared to stop or create obstacles for police vehicle traffic. These actions used to be very well planned because they had many people involved. Some spotters (watchdogs) were spread out in the neighborhood, monitoring the movement of the troops, and using mobile phones to talk or to send text messages, or even 2-way radios.
Because of the great number of people benefitting from drug trafficking (vigilantes, salesmen, security guards, wrappers/prepares, carriers, among others), these activities were used to systematically create chaos and to wear down the troops, promoting fights, disobedience, and resistance to order.
Normally, women, pregnant women, the elderly, and children who supported the illegal activities formed a barrier to protect the criminals against the troops by causing disturbances, exchanging aggressive words, or throwing different types of objects. This situation used to be extremely delicate, even for the use of non-lethal weapons (pepper spray, rubber ammunition, and others), because most of the time there were people ready to record these actions on tape and to dissipate the images to the media. In many opportunities, having been alerted that there would be a confrontation, journalists were standing by. Once they arrived at the scene, the mobs would form and the hostility would start.
As described above, it is clear that members of the Comando Vermelho master many Psychological Operations techniques, directing them to many targeted audiences within the Theater of Operations. They know how to use social networks, the Internet, video editing, music recording, or even more rudimentary activities such as graffiti on walls or simply spreading terror through rumors and threats.
The greatest challenge in efficiently repressing these actions by the opposing forces is the lack of legal freedom of the troops because of the rules of engagement. It is important to emphasize that the Army is employed under the Constitution. This means that all residents of the communities (regardless of how violent and outlawed they may be) had their rights and individual guarantees protected. The troops did not have authorization to enter homes to apprehend undocumented vehicles (police mission), or to perform other actions.
The decision on the type of actions was made on a political level and caused a great problem to the Pacification Force on all hierarchic levels, but Brazilian Officers adapted to these conditions, detained the actions and accomplished the mission with an unprecedented historical success, turning the communities over to the state of Rio de Janeiro with security scores never before seen in that region.
*Fernando Montenegro, retired Colonel of the Brazilian Army and twice Task Force combatant of the light infantry battalion.
Hello pretty Charlito, Good Day
This article is interesting, but is rather large, I recommend you read it carefully. It is related to the actions of organized crime in Brazil.
Crime is not crime, understand? If it isn't, you can't understand.