The internet gang deconversion culture that is Brazil

As gang wars drive Brazil’s homicide rate to historic highs, evangelical pastors — long revered in the nation’s slums and prisons — have come up with a new way to protect members looking for a way out.

Gang leaders say the only way to leave the business alive is to convert to Christianity. So Barros, a televangelist popular here in western Brazil, memorializes a gang member’s embrace of the ancient articles of faith using the most modern of tools: He records the conversion on his smartphone and posts the videos on YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp. The converts gain immunity against retribution by rival gangs and their own.

Gang leaders and law enforcement officials say it works.

“We aren’t going to go against the will of God,” a local leader of the powerful Comando Vermelho, the gang that was pursuing Viera, told The Washington Post. “God comes first, above everything.”

And there is an enforcement mechanism:

When his attackers saw it [the deconversion video], they dropped their pursuit. But they monitored him for months, checking to see if he was going to church or had contact with his former leaders.

“If I do anything wrong, they will kill me,” Cunha said. “I have to take the video seriously. They don’t tolerate regressions.”

Here is more from Marina Lopes at The Washington Post, interesting throughout.


Such is life in Thiago's Brazil.

The point is, the crime problem (grossly exaggerated by the maimstream media, by the way) is being addressed. It is not like America, where poor Blacks are rounded up and murdered by the police.

Probably the discrimination against blacks by U.S police officers is also grossly exaggerated by the maimstream media?

I don't think so. I have heard many articles on it and I watched a documentary on public TV. It is chilling.

I view something genuinely special in this internet site.

The cartels in Sinaloa distribute Bibles with one hand while chopping up their enemies with the other. God fearing Christians, like Muslims, do a real good job of turning their countries into sh*tholes.

At least they don't make them drink bleach:

I am no gang member, but I have imperfections, as does everyone; faith, as a Christian, Jew, or whatever, is a powerful force, a force for good and, alas, sometimes for evil. In Brazil, about 65% of the population self-identify as Catholic (down from almost 90% 30-40 years ago); thus, in Brazil, the Church still has a powerful influence on a large part of the population. Many experiences in life can motivate one to "find religion", gang warfare certainly one of them, as is, for example, addiction to alcohol or drugs. One who is an addict and finds religion is often monitored by similarly situated persons who also accept a higher power (e.g., in AA) or the higher power of the addict's priest or pastor to make sure the addict does not "slip". I suppose the gangs in Brazil have a role similar to AA and the priest or pastor to make sure the former gang member does not "slip". God works in mysterious ways.

Yes, murdering people for not going to church is exactly the same as voluntary monitoring in AA. *facepalm*

Brazil's society and its government are working hard to prevent crime, punish and rehabilitate criminals and make Brazil safer than it has ever been. President Captain Bolsonaro has enacted laws to make easier to honest Brazilians to buy and carry powerful guns. The President has sent to Congress a bill to fight crime. It will make easier to kill criminals or give them lengthier prison sentences. Rio de Janeiro State governor Mr. Witzel has ordered security forces to shoot to kill criminals carrying assault weapons. All living former Brazilian presidents are under federal investigation. All in all, the situation is getting better and better.

As famous American President George W. Bush, who supports President Captain Bolsonaro, said about Terror: "This enemy hides in shadows, and has no regard for human life. This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, runs for cover. But it won't be able to run for cover forever. This is an enemy that tries to hide. But it won't be able to hide forever. This is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe. But they won't be safe forever."
We are winningbthe War onn Crime. As President Captain Bolsonaro says, "Brazil above everything. God above everyone".

The truth of your insightful and wise comment is verified by cold hard facts: crime rates are indeed plummeting:

Exactly, murders are way down. Criminals are feeling the heat.

You are a deranged lunatic and I wish you were a troll.

Good grief. Is abusive name-calling all you do? SAD.

There is no better debate culture available with the like of Thiago. Or with you, from the looks of it. The alternative is silence, which falsely signals condonement.

You are wrong.

Thiago Rebeiro wants people who would murder me removed by persasion backed by lethal force.

xyz is so keen on freedom that he wants them free to murder me, which is apt to seriously impair my liberty

That has to be the dumbest redefinition yet. This is why I insult you instead of "debating" you: You are mindbroken.

Thiago may be a monomaniac, but he is civil, which puts him one up on you.

Don't care. Form over substance is not my philosophy. Being civil to fascists and fundamentalists does nothing. You are a fool if you think otherwise.

It's quite clear that your form of direct insults is your substance. So much for your worthless "distinction".

Insults signal disagreement. Specific insults signal specific disagreement. There's a reason I called him a deranged lunatic and not a faggot. Exchanging arguments with deranged lunatics is an uphill battle. They lie and the redefine everything deceitfully, either on purpose or because their brains round everything off to their simplistic, twisted worldview. No one can have a rational "debate" with such people.

The alternative is to accept and tolerate everything they express. But that is dangerous and harmful, because it would set new social norms that their behavior and ideas are generally seen as okay. Which they are not.

If you have a problem with my communication model, I can always call you a butthurt faggot if it helps. It happens to me every time I try using reason and arguments with extremists, so I gave that up.

Thiago has advocated for the genocide of Asians in nations like India, China, Japan, and the Koreas not to mention the various slurs to describe the people of those nations. Most would not consider that civil.

It is not slurs. The insidious Red CHinese and cow-worshipping Indians wish to enslave mankind. They must all be murdered.

This exact story has already been written in Central America
Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America
It’s a good book

Thiago bait. Not that he requires much bait.

The joke is in on Brazil haters. Brazil is doing fine, crime is beating defeated, President Captain Bolsonaro has vowed to lower liquefied natural gas prices and former American president Mr. Bush supports Brazil. Like the victorious Roman generals of yore, we can, amidst our triumph, afford to stand being reminded of our mortality.

Brazil and Russia are two countries that are doing just fine but could stand for a little nudge in the growth department.

GDP per capita:

Brazil in 2010 $14,500; in 2017 $14,100
Russia in 2011 $24,300; in 2017 $24,800

There were some troubles in the last five years. A small recession made the country lose some steam growth-wise. That is why President Captain Bolsonaro and Economy Minister Mr. Guedes are implementing a bold free market plan which is expect to liberate the productive forces and boost growth. It is a kind of Brazilian Perestroika.

@Todd K - I think the GDP per capita figures for Russia are suspect, and sure enough Google confirms my impression: $10,743.10 USD (2017) is Russia's GDP/capita (nominal USD, not PPP, the only metric that matters)

Bonus trivia: a good YouTube channel is the "ASP" channel which shows CCTV captured gun shootouts. I'd say 80% of them come from Brazil, a gun crazy country, but the Brazilian off-duty police are quite good with handling guns, it's amazing how well they shoot under stress (also true for certain US police).

What's actually amazing, to people raised on hollywood western movies and tv cop dramas, is how POORLY people actually shoot under pressure.

Ray, you might want to learn why PPP is necessary. It isn't that hard. Admittedly, it isn't always easy to learn new things after 40.

This is interesting if true. But I am inclined to believe this is one of those weekend trend throwaways that turns out to be a anecdotal quirk or propaganda.

It reminds me of the popular representation of the Italian Mafia's relationship with the church. Which I have no idea if it is accurate or a Hollywood invention. But it makes good drama to interplay the dissonance between the professed piety and rabid defense of anti-blasphemy against plotting extortion, pimping, murders and drug distribution while attending a Roman Catholic funeral.

Same too for the IRA, who eventually blurred the lines between violence and religion.

But I am also prepared to believe that criminals actually elevate superstitions and a religious honor codes in some kind of kabuki. Not unlike some of those African genocide gang stories, where we are told they have their roots or interplay with magical voodoo-esque religions.

I grew up with a fairly vandalous suburban cohort of budding teen sociopaths. We broke our share of windows. Then one time this kid broke a small stained glass window at a church with a well placed baseball-sized rock. He was marginalized by his peers for crossing an unwritten line... apparently, you don't break windows at churches, man.

Yet, the majority of supposedly pious Catholics I know routinely ignore and violate most of the supposed cardinal rules without the slightest sense of irony or self-awareness. It just fits in as this thing they do on Sunday and ignore the rest of the week, but would fight anyone who insults it. As a protestant I once ended up breaking up with a woman who insisted out of the blue that her children must be raised Catholic. FFS she and I had been brazenly violating most of the sins and several of the Ten Commandments up to that point, and she had not attended services outside Christmas since I knew her.

Good observations. You're also in good company, as I got to know quite a few successful white-collar professionals who were sociopaths in their teens. Drug users, vandals, and then Wall Streeters, seems it's par for the course or a rite of passage.

Yes, rites of passage precisely.

Not to go all "Iron John" on you, but I am a firm believer that male teenage potential energy, if bottled, could fuel the world's electricity needs, with more to spare. Contemporary suburban middle/upper-middle class culture is almost perfectly ill-suited to the job. Or at least it was in the 1970's.

This will work until it doesn't. Someone sufficiently high up will go through the ceremony to save his life and then will keep a hand on the business while paying some corrupt priest to verify his continuing contrition. Someone reckless will hire a non-Catholic assassin from another country to kill him. And then the system will start to fray.

Indeed, if we consider the market for criminal labor it appears there are growth opportunities for gangs that are not religious.

The US used to have Jewish gangs. Perhaps that's in Brazil's future.

That famous Youtube video (I wonder if it's been pulled?) of the Catholic priest who was murdered in Mexico by hitmen because he was corrupt, and what was interesting is the hitmen did not 'triangulate' and watch their 'backstop' (as is taught in police academy as well as the ASP channel I mention upstream) so they ended up, with fully automatic rifles (ouch! rifles have 7x-10x more energy than handguns, very deadly and not easily survivable, unlike most handguns) shooting and killing each other. What was striking is one of the famed hitmen ended up with his corpse propped up on his own long gun that he fell on and it stood him up like a scarecrow, in a macabre fashion worthy of a John Wick movie.

Most of them are Evangelicals.

The obvious reason the gang members protect former members looking for a way out of the gang: self interest. A gang member may decide later that being in a gang isn't so great. That religious conversion is the path to freedom from persecution has a long history. St. Paul's conversion saved Paul from persecution by followers of Jesus as retribution for Paul's persecution of followers of Jesus before Paul's conversion. On the other hand, Paul's conversion did not save Paul, a Roman citizen, from being beheaded by the Romans. Will conversion of gang members save them from being beheaded by Bolsonaro's regime? Or will they suffer the same fate as Paul?

A face-saving safety valve. Seems like a useful feature for sustainability. Particularly as a way to break the cycle of honor-code blood feuds.

And not unlike the old enroll in the army to stay out of jail diversion. A safety valve win-win that allows law enforcement avoid jailing the children of their friends/neighbors to the point that they've alienated everyone.

We used to call it confession, did it in a closet.

Were hairy palms involved?

The thing about Malaki was he was a whiz with numbers. He broke down the game into a rubix cube of different sets of time and sequenced them. Anytime I looked at him at practice, he’d nod or lick his lips, he’d point, hell he’d bark before he said a word. He was counting. He’d count to 1800 twice on Wednesdays. By game time he’s huffing and puffing and his hands are like spreadsheets. The other team, the fans, even us at first, think he’s acting like he’s Pete Rose, only he’s not. He sure paid for it it. He scratches his hand and snaps the rose of his fist into his palm. His hands flex, they’re constantly measuring, fingers prod, measuring. At the free throw line, he’s finger painting. On defense, he makes repetitive motions with his toe and heel, 1-2, on the third beat, he flexes his calves, then punches his hip with his wrist and catches a bead of sweat on his bottom lace. He’s deciphering some hieroglyphics passage.

This is the same in at least some communities in Northern Ireland - conversion is a (the only?) legitimate way out, but they may visit the minister to check that the person is still going to the church

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