Rudy Giuliani has become a controversial figure in this year’s election — in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. With his eyes on reelection this Sunday, governor Amazonino Mendes signed a controversial $1.6 million consultancy contract with Giuliani Security & Safety (GSS). Mendes is prominently touting the deal in his campaign, promising it will “revolutionize” the state’s grim security predicament.
It’s the latest example of Giuliani traveling abroad to cash in on his tough-on-crime reputation from his days as New York City mayor, despite the fact that new research has increasingly discredited his signature implementation of the “broken windows” policing strategy.
Back home, Giuliani is defending president Donald Trump in a probe related to foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, but his own ties to foreign governments, through lucrative contracts such as this one, have drawn scrutiny in Washington. Critics in multiple countries where Giuliani operates — including the U.S. — argue that his specialty is serving as a media diversion, rather than the job description written on his contracts.
“We sought out the best crime-fighting consultancy in the world. It’s called Rudolph Giuliani.”
In 2009, while mayor of Manaus, Mendes’s vice mayor Carlos Souza was arrested and charged with involvement in the drug trade, and his late brother Wallace was accused of ordering the killings of drug dealers to increase the audience of the television crime show both men hosted. Wallace died in 2010. Souza still faces charge of association with the drug trade.
In a campaign video, Mendes put GSS front and center, boasting that he sought out the best security consultancy in the world. “Ideally, when you have a serious illness, you call in a specialist, right? That’s what we did. We sought out the best crime-fighting consultancy in the world. It’s called Rudolph Giuliani.”
The firm’s deal with Amazonas state has been challenged by Brazilian police, prosecutors, and law enforcement specialists who question how Giuliani’s New York experience can translate to the very different realities of this sprawling jungle state, where grueling poverty, systematic corruption, and police violence are intrinsically related to rampant crime levels. The 2017 murder rate in Manaus was 48 per 100,000, higher than the 30.66 per 100,000 in New York at its 1990 worst.
Federal prosecutors have dubbed the GSS contract a “media spectacle”; a leading penal judge asked why Brazilian specialists weren’t being employed, and police officers wondered why the governor wasn’t asking them instead. Brazil’s Federal Police — the country’s equivalent of the FBI, which also control borders and fights transnational drug crime — flatly refused to cooperate. State prosecutors opened an investigation into the GSS contract’s legality.
“This consultancy will tell us what we already knew.”
“This consultancy will tell us what we already knew. It was not well received,” said Ney Gama, an officer in the homicide division of Amazonas Civil Police, the force tasked with crime investigations. “We have to strengthen the borders, reinforce the strength of the police. But this is logical. It needs investment.”
Jacqueline Muniz, an adjunct professor at the Public Security Department at Rio’s Federal Fluminense University, said GSS was offering a “menu of pre-established solutions” aimed at “advertising and marketing.” She said that the money should have been spent on a violence-reduction program for at-risk youth.
Instead, tasked with “identifying measures which turn the repression of criminality and the development of all branches of penal persecution within the scope of the state of Amazonas more efficient,” GSS’s contract projects a system similar to the CompStat statistical intelligence program used in New York.
GSS first sent a proposal for the consultancy work in January 2017 to Amazonino’s predecessor as governor José Melo — a year after the Amazonas state electoral court voted to suspend Melo’s mandate for suspicions of vote buying (he was finally removed last year and Mendes won a snap election), and six months after federal prosecutors had revealed a graft scheme involving tens of millions of dollars diverted from his administration’s health budgets.
Prosecutor Alexandre Jabur, who led the graft investigation that resulted in Melo’s arrest in December 2017, criticized the government’s “media spectacle attitude” in signing the no-bid contract in a state where corruption is endemic. “There is money being diverted, works that are unfinished, works that aren’t done,” he said. “The organs of control are second-rate.”
As mayor of New York City, Giuliani and his Police Chief William Bratton were credited with a sharp decrease in crime rates after implementing the “broken windows” theory, which advocates reducing criminality with a tough approach to misdemeanors like panhandling, graffiti, or vandalism.
“There is absolutely no good empirical evidence that ‘broken windows’ works.”
But this record is increasingly being questioned, with some critics noting that throughout the 1990s crime fell in many American cities as the economy improved, and others arguing that “zero tolerance” strategies led to police abuses and even killings.
“There is absolutely no good empirical evidence that ‘broken windows’ works,” says Bernard Harcourt, a professor of political science and law at Columbia University and one of the leading experts on the subject. He adds that there is a general consensus in the academic community that “it has been enforced in a racially discriminatory manner in New York City.”
The successes GSS claims for its work in other Latin American cities have also been challenged. In 2002, Giuliani’s company signed a $4 million consultancy contract with Mexico City. Crimes fell 8 percent in its first year, but by 2004, homicides were down just half a percent and kidnappings had doubled, according to a Seattle Times report.
“While there were some superficial changes associated with Plan Giuliani, it failed to achieve either a substantive reduction in serious crime or an increased feeling of safety among urban residents,” Alison Mountz and Winnifred Curran, geographers from Syracuse and DePaul universities, respectively, concluded in a 2006 study.
Gov. Amazonino Mendes uses the decrease in crime rates in Medellín, Colombia, in one of his campaign videos, attributing the fall to Giuliani’s work there. In 2016, Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, Juan Carlos Pinzón praised Giuliani’s support for Colombia’s “transformation.”
“Mayor Giuliani has lent his expertise in fighting crime and leading New York City’s positive security transformation to related projects in Colombia, helping our nation to turn the page on the past toward a prosperous future built on stability, hope, and peace,” Pinzón said.
Giuliani’s recommendations have been followed “to some degree” in the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Cali, the Washington Post reported.
Juan Galvis, a geographer specializing in urban issues in Latin America and assistant professor at the State University of New York, contested that Giuliani’s work had reduced crime in such cities.
“Homicide statistics have been moving down in most large Colombian cities for about 20 years, and I haven’t come across any study that has found one main cause,” he said in an email. “Policies from regulating nightlife to bans on handguns, increased policing, paramilitary and guerrilla demobilization (even if partial) and many others have had to do with this.”
“When you don’t address the corruption in the police who are very badly paid for their work, and you have very high rates of racial inequality, it just exacerbates the problems.”
Other academics also expressed doubts about Giuliani’s work on the continent.
“He’s like a political showpiece,” said Kate Swanson, an associate professor of geography at San Diego State University, who has written about Giuliani’s work in Latin America, arguing that his New York methods were not applicable to Latin American cities where police forces are corrupt and violent, and the divides between rich and poor are accentuated.
“When you don’t address the corruption in the police who are very badly paid for their work, and you have very high rates of racial inequality, it just exacerbates the problems,” Swanson said.
GSS does not disclose its financials, but such criticisms have apparently not hurt its bottom line. The Washington Post reported in 2007 that in its first five years of operation, the firm raked in $100 million and has continued to land many prominent clients since then.
Giuliani’s performance as Trump’s lawyer has also raised eyebrows over his competence. During his first TV interview in this role, the 74-year-old lawyer contradicted Trump’s own public position on hush money payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential election, much to the shock of the show’s host, Sean Hannity.
Last month, Senate Democrats urged the Justice Department to investigate whether Giuliani’s international consulting work while serving the president violates federal regulations. Giuliani insists that he’s “never lobbied [Trump] on anything” and therefore does not need to register as a foreign agent.
The contract signed on May 7 between the Amazonas government and Giuliani’s company provides for a three-phase consultancy deal that will analyze crime in the state, its prison system, and its border strategy.
“Activity 1” is a “field evaluation” of the investigative work, structure, and efficiency of the Civil Police. Aside from clauses looking at the Civil Police’s forensic capacity and a design for a public-private “police foundation,” it is strikingly similar – at times word for word — to the proposal sent to José Melo and dated January 3, 2017, which The Intercept has obtained. It also referred to the Federal Police, changing that to Civil Police in the contract. “Activity 1” costs $155,000 in the proposal, with another $100,000 to present a report. This has risen to $475,000 in the signed contract. The contract adds further “activities” examining the prison system and borders.
State prosecutors in Manaus have opened an investigation into the contract, following complaints from members of the public and a state legislature member, prosecutor Edilson Queiroz said, which they have a year to complete. Public contracts in Brazil are normally opened up to tender, but in some cases these can be dispensed with if the company is the only one that can offer this type of service, Queiroz said. “My job is to look at the legality of this contract, if it was really necessary, if this information will be pertinent.”
The public servant who signed a decree on Friday, May 4, making the tender process unnecessary, took the job the same day. The contract was signed the following Monday. Chiefs of the Military and Civil Police were later changed. “The consultancy will bring us the best and most advanced in technology,” said Col. Walter Cruz, coordinating the project for the Amazonas government, during a ceremony to swear in Frederico Mendes, the new Civil Police chief, on September 17.
Training, intelligence, integration, and technology were the pillars of the contract, Cruz said at the event. But the money used to pay for it was taken from projects related to technology, information, communication, and research, according to a decree signed by Amazonino Mendes.
GSS did not answer questions about their contract and work here. In an email, its Latin American representative Kellen Dunning referred inquiries about the consultancy to the state government. “GSS does not discuss with third parties any questions related to contract and proposals submitted to any clients,” Denning said. “GSS does not comment on their findings and decisions in the due diligence process before moving forward with a contracting process.”
The state government scheduled interviews for The Intercept with Cruz in Manaus and then canceled them, and did not respond to written questions. It has begun testing an integrated intelligence system called GuardiAM 24 hours, similar to the CompStat intelligence system used by New York police cited in the GSS contract. Guiliani flew in for the ceremony, in which he handed over the first 30-page report, his only visit to date.
One of the biggest obstacles GSS faces is the refusal of Brazil’s Federal Police to cooperate. Brazil’s most respected crime-fighting force is revered for high-profile operations against political corruption and drug gangs and controls Brazil’s borders, the subject of “Activity 3” of GSS’s contract.
It runs a base near Tabatinga in the “three-border region” near Peru and Colombia, situated on the River Solimões, a tributary of the Amazon. Much of Brazil’s drug trade flows down this river. Yet there is no border control between Tabatinga and Leticia, its sister city on the Colombian border, and some of the surrounding border region is wild forest.
In an official letter seen by The Intercept and dated May 15, Federal Police in Manaus refused to schedule a “technical meeting” with the GSS team. “The understanding is that we cannot be part of this consultancy, which is a commercial relationship between the state and a private foreign consultancy,” said Federal Police officer Leandro Almada, adding that the force had declined to supply data about borders and protection to GSS.
An aunt told The Intercept that he attended an evangelical church. A neighbor said he had previously been a drug gang member. “Why did they do this? He didn’t want these things for his life,” his sister said. Like the others, she declined to give her name for fear of reprisals.
In July alone, this north Brazilian city of 2.1 million people, an island of asphalt in the jungle, was rocked by 113 violent deaths, many blamed on the low-intensity war between drug gangs fighting for control of its lucrative trade. The capital of the state of Amazonas, Manaus is located on the smuggling route used by speedboats carrying tons of cocaine and marijuana down rivers from neighboring Peru and Colombia. Local feuds achieved global notoriety in January 2017, when 56 prisoners were butchered in a gruesome riot at a Manaus prison.
As violent crime has intensified, so too has fear, feeding support for hard-line law and order candidates in Brazil’s October 7 presidential, congressional and state government elections.
Giuliani’s consultancy will need to confront the grim realities of an under-resourced, underpaid police force battling three vicious drug gangs across a 600,000-square mile state where rivers provide the main transport.
“These gangs dispute the domination of the city, of the route, on the base of violence,” said Paulo Mavignier, head of Civil Police drug squad in Amazonas.
The dominant mafia, the Northern Family (Família do Norte, or FDN), staged the January 2017 riot at Manaus’s Anísio Jobim to eliminate adversaries from São Paulo’s First Capital Command gang (Primeiro Comando do Capital, or PCC) that left 56 dismembered, disemboweled, and decapitated bodies. Dozens were brutally killed in retaliatory riots in other Brazilian states.
“Call the police because they are invading again! They’re shooting!”
The PCC was left weakened. But after a recent split in its ranks, a former FDN leader teamed up with Rio’s notoriously vicious Red Command (Comando Vermelho, or CV) and 35 of its gang members tunneled out of a brand-new prison in Manaus last May, local media reported. Some crime reporters link the escaped prisoners to a new spike in homicides in battle-scarred communities like Mutirão, where fear is a constant.
Minutes after the police and morgue truck left with dos Santos’s body, people scattered after hearing shots and crime reporters ran to a nearby car. Dos Santos’s sister appeared at its window, distraught.
“Call the police because they are invading again! They’re shooting,” she cried, tears pouring down her face.
The third of Brazil’s three police forces, the state government-run Military Police, is not even mentioned in the GSS contract — a remarkable omission, given that it has the biggest number of officers and controls street and so-called ostensive policing. Organized like a military unit, it is the force most regularly linked to the thousands of extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses that take place every year in Brazil.
“I shot in the head,” “I like to kill quickly,” “I prefer to leave him in agony.”
In 2015, 12 Military Police officers and three civilians were arrested in an investigation into a “death squad” believed to have executed 19 people and attempted to kill 13 others. Many were innocents targeted at random in a revenge spree after a police officer working as a security guard was killed during a robbery. Leandro Almada ran the investigation. The officers involved called themselves the “Ghost Riders,” after the American superhero movie starring Nicolas Cage as a vengeful motorcyclist who made a pact with the devil, wiretaps and cellphone messages revealed.
“Their conversations were clear during the crimes they committed, at times bragging: ‘I shot in the head,’ ‘I like to kill quickly,’ ‘I prefer to leave him in agony,’” said Almada. “These crime waves following the deaths of police officers have happened frequently in various states.” Eleven people currently face trial on charges like homicide.
The smaller Civil Police is separate to the Military Police, and officers said its main problem is a lack of staff and equipment. They are unable to talk to their Military Police colleagues by radio because they use a different network, Officer Nev Gama said. Despite a new recruitment drive, many towns still have just one officer, said Henrique Brasil, the officer in charge of the state’s vast interior, as he complained to a superior officer about a power-cut stopping officers in a small town who had arrested a suspected murderer to file paperwork.
Paulo Mavignier, head of its drug squad, has just 23 officers and five speedboats, none of which are armored, even though they engage in armed combat with drug gangs.
Phase two of the contract looks at Amazonas’s prisons — which like most in Brazil are dangerously overcrowded, violent, and heavily under the influence of drug gangs. “Someone from New York does not know the penitentiary system in Latin America,” said Luís Valois, a penal judge who helped negotiate the end of the 2017 prison riot. “Amazonas has very competent people to do this.”
The GSS team has visited Manaus prisons, all administered by private companies, said Col. Cleitman Coelho, who heads up the Amazonas penitentiary department. Coelho has installed body scanners and transferred gang leaders to other states, but the state’s prisons still lack cellphone blockers, and his administration is contracting new prison guards because only 67 are left. “The ones I have are no use,” he said. “There is a very high level of corruption among them.”
The companies that co-run the state’s prisons have around 900 “re-socialization officers” to control 9,700 prisoners, held in prisons with capacity for 3,500. A new prison opened in September 2017, but has already been turned over to a private company after 35 prisoners tunneled out in May. According to João Medeiros, a judge in charge of executing penal sentences, it lacked medical care and even light bulbs. Coelho hopes GSS can help them find stronger building materials.
After the January 2017 riot, the state closed a semi-open prison that was next door. Since then, Coelho said, prisoners serving less than eight years in sentences are released and put on probation, wearing ankle bracelets that monitor their movements, which are restricted.
Carlos Bruno Miranda, 26, was wearing one when he was shot several times and killed in the low-income União neighborhood of Manaus on a recent evening. The names “Fabio” and “Regis” were scribbled on a note left on his bloodied body left slumped on a step beside a polluted stream and a row of wooden shacks. Many lacked windows — another challenge for Giuliani’s “broken windows” policy.
Speaking anonymously out of fear, a childhood friend said Miranda had become involved in drugs in his late teens and drove a taxi. In March 2017, Miranda was arrested when he and four other men held a couple at gunpoint and stole their car. He was later released with the ankle bracelet after receiving a five-year sentence.
Antonio Carlos de Paiva, 31, an accounting assistant, runs a nonprofit group called Equipe Sonic (Sonic Team) that takes children from one Manaus gang-run neighborhood roller skating. He said the government should fund more education and sport facilities to keep young people in desperate poverty out of crime, instead of spending on foreign consultancies.
“It’s like a disease,” said Leonardo dos Santos Junior, 35, a stevedore who beat a cocaine addiction through roller skating with Paiva’s group. “You can’t treat the symptoms. You have to treat the cause.”