Most of the victims 390 were males and most 336

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Most of the victims (390) were males and most (336) between 15 and 17; only 11 had police records, and 13, at the most, were suspected of drug trafficking. The overwhelming majority had known addresses and lived with their parents. None was known to have ever carried weapons. (Rizzini et al., 1994, p. 66) The authors went on to note, These crimes, which resembled executions, are believed to have been commit- ted by hired gunmen. Police are investigating drug traffickers and gangsters who are the prime suspects; individuals who take justice into their own hands (“vigilantes,” “death or extermination squads”); and a third group, the mili- tary and civil police and private security guards. Few of these cases have been resolved. It is worth emphasizing that the victims are commonly perceived as a social evil which should be suppressed [italics added]. (1994, p. 66) The last line of this quote is especially chilling. Even if all of the victims were small-time drug traffickers or petty thieves, did they deserve to be sum- marily executed? And has this “common perception” of a social evil resulted in the summary execution of suspected adult drug traffickers and thieves? It is clear that young children—even those whose primary reason for being on the streets is the poverty of their families—are easy prey for such vigilantism. Fifty-four percent of Brazilian children live in households in which the Copyright ©2018 by SAGE Publications, Inc. This work may not be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without express written permission of the publisher. Draft Proof - Do not copy, post, or distribute
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310 PART FOUR: Children, Social Problems, and the Future of Childhood monthly per capita income is half the minimum wage or less (Rizzini et al., 1994, p. 65). In his study of the street children of Recife in northeast Brazil, Hecht (1998) captured the complexity of their local cultures and life on the street and its relation to global economic forces. Almost all of the children Hecht studied had some dedication to their mothers and homes but chose life on the streets for the independence and small economic rewards it offered through begging and small-time, street-level crime such as petty theft and violence. Almost all of the lives of the children Hecht studied turned out badly, and many were murdered on the street. However, Hecht argued that focusing only on these outcomes and the problem of street violence can miss the socioeconomic forces that create the street culture as the only alternative for many of these children (also see Gough & Franch, 2005, for a compara- tive study of wealthy and poor youth in Recife and differences in their neigh- borhoods and use of space in city life). According to Hecht, street children are a reminder, literally on the doorsteps of rich Brazilians and just outside the five-star hotels where the development consultants stay, of the contradictions of contemporary social life: the opulence of the few amid the poverty of the majority, the plethora of resources amid the squandering of opportunities.
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