Urban violence and the militarisation of security: Brazilian ‘peacekeeping’ in Rio de Janeiro and Port-au-Prince

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Hoelscher, Kristian & Per Martin Norheim-Martinsen (2014) Urban violence and the militarisation of security: Brazilian ‘peacekeeping’ in Rio de Janeiro and Port-au-Prince, Small Wars and Insurgencies 25(5): 957–975.


​Despite problems of violence domestically, Brazil has played a key leadership role as part of MINUSTAH peacekeeping operations in Haiti since 2004. This article addresses how Brazil's international military engagement is shaping domestic approaches to urban security, and what may be the implications of the use of military strategies, operations, and norms to address issues of public security in Brazilian cities. It is argued that current approaches toward urban security employing military-trained peacekeepers actually represent a continuation of old paradigms, yet these recent militarised approaches are likely evolving into newer and potentially more accountable forms by constraining indiscriminate use of force and establishing a positive state presence in marginal urban areas. As such, the article connects long-established issues of dealing with urban violence in Latin America with ongoing debates in the United States and beyond about post-counterinsurgency approaches to increasingly urban conflict settings. It reflects on potential lessons to be learned from the Latin American perspective, while showing also how these have changed over the last decade. The article concludes that despite the potential utility of force in some urban conflict settings, this approach could entail a normative shift towards legitimising forceful containment of violence, and hinder democratic consolidation in Brazil.