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Program Information
 Unreported World 
 Regular Show
 For non-profit use only.
 No Advisories - program content screened and verified.
Reporter Evan Williams and director Paul Kittel travel to the Brazilian city of Recife, a beach paradise visited by thousands of British tourists every year. They uncover allegations that the police are involved in death squads that have murdered thousands of 'undesirables', including hundreds of street children, every year.
(This is audio of the video)

Unreported World

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The Unreported World team is immediately confronted by the murder of an 18-year-old boy on the side of a street. Police officers say it was an execution, a close-range shot to the head, typical of many of the city's nearly 3000 murders a year.

The team meets some of the city's estimated 4000 street children. Using crack and sniffing glue, many of these street kids turn to prostitution and petty crime to survive. One social worker claims that 600 street children have been killed over the past few years, and that 60% were murdered by police death squads.

At the city's Homicide Squad headquarters, a senior detective tells Williams that at least 30% of the killings are by death squads. Down in the cells, the team finds a young man who says he is on the run from a death squad known as the Thundercats. 'The Death Squads can kill you for anything - a drug debt, a robbery - they have been around since I was a child,' he says.

The murder rate is so high a group of activists has erected an electronic sign that gives a running total of the number killed. Last year it revealed 4525 people had been killed in the state and 2600 in the city of Recife alone. The sign's organiser tells Williams the killing continues because many of the dead are from the slums and so the middle class just don't care.

The team interviews a state prosecutor who says just 3% of the city's homicide cases ever get to trial and that 50% of all the murders are by death squads, which he claims include police officers who feel they have to take the law into their own hands.

Williams meets one shopkeeper who claims that due to the lack of police presence it's common for people to pay death squads to kill suspected criminals, and, he claims, the death squads include many police officers.

Back on the wealthy beach strip, the team is called to another murder. Police officers at the scene say the dead boy had allegedly stolen a laptop, a woman reported him to the police station and he has been found dead on the beach. 'Middle-class people often hire death squads to kill those they suspect of stealing from them,' one officer tells Williams. 'This fits the pattern. It is most likely a death squad killing."

Williams and Kittel meet a death squad member who says he is a serving police officer and that he has personally killed about thirty people. He says he's performing a social service by cleaning up the 'scum' because the justice system is failing. He claims he doesn't fear arrest because at times he is killing alleged criminals on the orders of his superiors in the police force. 'This is how it works. The senior police officer will call us in, in the course of that meeting he says there is a guy we want you to kill and we want it done, say, by Friday. We go and do the job, so, a lot of police are involved.'

Senior police commanders admit there are police officers in death squads, and say they are trying to close them down. They say they have broken up dozens of death squads in the past two years and arrested 411 suspected members. In one muddy slum, the team meets Albetina, the mother of one of the men police say was executed. She says no one from the police had asked her any questions nor had there been any investigation into the killings.'The evil is everywhere,' she says, 'It is so hard to deal with the loss of a son, I have not even told his children yet. I now have nothing here.'

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00:24:12 English 2009-05-15
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