LESTER: Urban Brazil is at war with itself. An undeclared civil war. A slaughtering of its young. The violence now spilling out of these slums or 'favelas' has made the country's two major cities more deadly than most war zones.
LUIZ SOARES (Brazil's Under Secretary for Security): Even if we don’t have a war, we have its consequences.
LESTER: The wealthy are in retreat, cocooned in fortress-like suburbs. The poor are left to hope traditional music programs and the like can keep their young from the bloodshed. These are not places where you expect to find schools or hospitals and you certainly don't expect to find police stations. We've just tried to get into a favela just up here and the police have stopped us. We're not going in, they say, because they're not able to get in – it's just too dangerous. Here the law has learned that the favela is a law unto itself. Yet there's new hope here too. Some favela sons and daughters now have unprecedented influence in Brazil – may be they can finally put an end to the violence. Brazilians know it as Cidade Maravilhosa, The Marvellous City, a symphony of the Southern Atlantic - a stark mountainous stretch of South America's West Coast and seven million people. Rio de Janeiro. Few cities anywhere match its raw beauty and few match its brutality.
LUKE DOWDNEY: Brazil is unfortunately champion in killing adolescents through armed fire, and it's very much linked to the question of drug factions.
LESTER: For five years, British anthropologist Luke Dowdney has studied the seven hundred slums or favelas knitted in the gaps along Rio's slopes and the children that grow up in them.
LUKE DOWDNEY: They live in a kill or be killed basis. If they don’t kill someone when they're told to do so they will be killed.
LESTER: Young boys, armed by Rio's three murderously competitive drug fiefdoms.
LUKE DOWDNEY: We do have children in Rio who are armed at 10 and 11. I've seen them.
LESTER: Children, hired to deal in cocaine and marijuana.
LUKE DOWDNEY: Many of them with war grade weapons.
LESTER: To terrorise and torture rivals.
LUKE DOWDNEY: AK47s, AR15s.
LESTER: And often to murder.
LUKE DOWDNEY: We estimate between five and six thousand under 18-year-olds working in an armed function within the municipality of Rio.
LESTER: Working the favelas - chaotic suburbs built by a flood of poor agricultural workers to the cities in recent decades.
YOUTH PRISONER "L": The police would appear shooting and we had to run away and shoot back.
LESTER: A drug worker at 12, "L" as we're told to call him is now 16. He and more than one hundred boys like him are serving time in this Rio prison. We gained access on an undertaking not to identify the boys. L has never been charged for the crimes he's about to admit to. And were the police the only people you'd fire on with those weapons or were there other people that you might fire on?
YOUTH PRISONER "L": At other people as well. We had to kill cheaters.
LESTER: So has he killed any of these cheaters or betrayers of the drug gangs?
YOUTH PRISONER "L": A lot. It's not just me. It's me and a group that comes with me shooting.
LESTER: Are there any murders where he acted alone?
YOUTH PRISONER "L": Alone? Four. I then set them on fire.
LESTER: Who told you to do that?
YOUTH PRISONER "L": I saw other guys doing it, so I did it too.
LUIZ SOARES: When we talk about lethal violence, when we talk about death, there is this terrible concentration on poor black young boys.
LESTER: Luiz Soares is Brazil's Under Secretary for Security advising this man – Luis Inacio da Silva. In a country where wealth and privilege rule, Lula as they know him has just managed the unthinkable. Son of Brazilian poverty and a humble trade union leader has been elected the country's first ever working class President.
LUIZ SOARES: And Lula is being elected with a plan, a national plan for security in which he is proposing changes on every level.
LUIS INACIO DA SILVA: Justice for the poor. Justice for the Brazilian people. Thank you.
LESTER: Delivering justice in Rio is a daunting task. A new study compares the city's violent killings to combat zones like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Colombia.
LUKE DOWDNEY: The only area of the world that had more combat related deaths than the municipality of Rio de Janeiro had firearms related deaths was Angola. Since 1978, more people have died in the city of Rio than as a result of the conflicts in Colombia, the civil war in Colombia.
LESTER: Children here are eight times more likely to die violently than those in Israel or the West Bank. Not just an academic, Luke Dowdney takes a hands on approach to keeping young Brazilians from the drug factions. He runs a night time boxing school at a Rio favela. He believes boys given choices will take alternatives to drug work.
MIRIAN GONZAGA DOS SANTOS: This social work that Luke created here is good for them because they leave all their anger and hate here.
LESTER: We spoke with mother and boxing club assistant Mirian Gonzaga dos Santos on a staircase, after a warning our camera would cause trouble if seen in the favela.
MIRIAN GONZAGA DOS SANTOS: Winners are those who reach 40 years old. I feel like a winner. We are old. I feel like a winner. We are survivors everyday we wake up.
LESTER: Mirian's 14 year old boy has trained here. Speak with her for just a while and you see a mother worn by fear for her two children.
MIRIAN GONZAGA DOS SANTOS: I just hope they reach my age, with honesty.
LESTER: The Governor's Palace in Rio. The morning we arrive drug gangs have sprayed the façade with bullets, while some of their gaoled leaders organise a prison riot. An embarrassed Governor lists weapons that somehow got to the drug bosses inside their cells.
BENEDITA DA SILVA: 2 revolvers, 5 pistols, 3 AR15s and 10 magazines, 2 grenades, 1 Molotov Cocktail, 5 kilos of explosives called C4.
LESTER: Like her ally President Lula, Benedita da Silva is a child of the poor. She's now Brazil's Welfare Minister, though when we recently met her, she was finishing her term as Rio's Governor.
BENEDITA DA SILVA: I cleaned the palaces in the past, now I live in a palace.
LESTER: She worked her way out of violence and poverty to political prominence and she's built a reputation busting drug gangs. We're told that there's a separate parallel power in the favelas. Are the drug kingpins in this country really that powerful?
BENEDITA DA SILVA: They are the fear industry. It's not that they have power. They produce fear. They have instruments that create fear, they have weapons. We have to fight this. My administration has been the toughest about this, especially because of where I came from.
LESTER: Four hundred kilometres South West, Sao Paulo repeats Rio's agony, but on an even larger scale. Pilot Hamilton Alves Rocha took us above the world's fourth largest city to see the favelas etched into Sao Paulo's extraordinary sprawl, favelas just emerging in spaces on the landscape and to see how the wealthy in this city of 18 million avoid going anywhere near favelas the violence to make them such feared places.
HAMILTON ALVES ROCHA: Sao Paulo has the biggest helicopter traffic in the world, in my opinion.
LESTER: New York has ten helipads. Sao Paulo has two hundred and forty. Skyscrapers tops are aerial parking. Executives buy into helicopter collectives, hop between buildings and retreat at night to homes in walled mini cities, like the one Hamilton lives in – Alphaville.
HAMILTON ALVES ROCHA: The government should secure people's lives but because it doesn’t, we have private security.
LESTER: In fact a small army of eleven hundred officers secures Alphaville alone.
LUIZ SOARES: We have to get security for all or we are not going to have security for anyone.
LESTER: For Luiz Soares, the Alphavilles and aerial taxis have a special ugliness.
LUIZ SOARES: A picture of our defeat as a society, as a nation, as a democratic nation.
LESTER: And a part of the sickness that's made many thousands of boys like "L" murders, though he explains his executions in more simple terms.
YOUTH PRISONER "L": We had to kill, set on fire and bury the body, so the police wouldn't come and stop our business.
LESTER: Who were these people that you killed?
YOUTH PRISONER "L": Two were police we captured at the favela. My friends tied them up and told me to kill them. One was a woman that was a double agent, and another one was an undercover policeman who came to buy drugs from us.
LESTER: This young cocaine courier and his drug worker father have been shot six times between them. In Rio, that's life, or in several cases each year, death. Though many here now believe Brazil is ready to confront this crisis, that the public mood has shifted, in part because of one especially prominent Rio case. Breakfast news editor on Brazil's powerful TV Globo, Renato Machado is no son of the favelas but he worked with one.
RENATO MACHADO: I think that the Time Lopes case showed that nobody is protected, not even us reporters.
LESTER: Tim Lopes grew up next to a favela and used his affinity with the poor as an investigative reporter in the slums, until he upset Rio's drug lords. Sneaking into a favela with a hidden camera, then broadcasting these pictures of heavily armed drug boys dealing in cocaine.
RENATO MACHADO: You cannot go with this sort of camera and lighting equipment. You cannot go just in with a camera. They would shoot you, they would kill you.
LESTER: Last June, Tim Lopes went back with his tiny camera to secretly record cocaine sales promoted by under age sex at one of these favela parties.
RENATO MACHADO: He had the story, but it was still lacking let's say the vital shots of drugs and sex.
LESTER: And he died getting them.
RENATO MACHADO: He was spotted and he died.
LESTER: In fact the drug boss took him, tried him in a court of sorts, tortured him and personally hacked of his head with a samurai sword.
TANIA (Tim Lopes's sister): When I reached the TV set, the Formula One Grand Prix was being broadcast, I read on a black stripe: "Death of Tim Lopes confirmed".
LESTER: A terrible moment for sister Tania and the Lopes family but a deeply powerful one for Brazil.
SANDRA, Tim Lopes's wife: He showed the cruelty of the negligence of twenty years of social abandonment by the authorities.
LESTER: Brazil had barely blinked at the slaughter of tens of thousands of its favelas, but Tim Lopes made news night after night. His colleagues insist that is why then Governor Benedita da Silva moved against the drug lords. Benedita was watching the nightly news and got the message.
RENATO MACHADO: Yes and at that precise moment she knew that either she would attack the problem, she face the problem directly or she would be politically lost.
LESTER: Hoping to hear from those in he drug business, we make one more night time bid to cross the line into Rio's drug controlled favelas, an unnerving trip to Cidade de Deus, The City of God – stronghold of the feared Red Command drug gang. The gang's leaders have no idea we're coming in and the drug worker we're about to meet says his life depends on them never knowing. He's an edgy, angry and armed 18 year old known as "JN".
JN: (pulls out gun) If this one fails....it jams sometimes - this one doesn’t. With this one, (pulls out other gun) all I have to do is to pull the trigger and shoot at them.
LESTER: He admits to shooting people, how many he won't say.
JN: Yes, I did, yes, many, because they tried to shoot at me.
LESTER: Did they die?
LESTER: How do you feel about that now?
JN: I feel okay because before my mother cries, their mothers cry first.
LESTER: So is a President who knows this poverty and a newly stirred demand for action against violence enough for change? Those advising Lula acknowledge his measures will have to be radical, especially with the police.
LUIZ SOARES: Policemen can sell weapons to criminals; weapons that will kill them, kill policemen afterwards, so this is a paradox under which we are living.
LESTER: And that happens regularly?
LUIZ SOARES: Yeah daily.
LESTER: It's a claim we put to JN. Sure enough he confirms just where the Red Command gets its guns.
JN: Some, the police sell to us. Others we buy from foreigners. They are brought in from abroad.
LESTER: He does business with them on his own territory, yet if he's learned nothing else in his eight years as a drug worker, it's to hate the law.
JN: They come into the favela, pick up their money, kill whoever gets in their way. They bash, kill or do whatever they like with us. They use their uniforms to protect themselves. Police are worms.
LESTER: He says he can never leave the favela. The police would kill him. If the police want you, why haven't they just come in and got you?
JN: Because we are always well armed, waiting for them, to react, to pull the trigger, shoot the bullets at them, to throw grenades and blow them up and finish them off. That's why they don’t come into the favela.
LESTER: Every noise makes him jumpy and his moves make us jumpy but then life for the young men of Brazil's favelas is on the edge. And when you leave, what are you going to do? What now for your life?
YOUTH PRISONER "L": I'll go back to working with drugs because it is good. I make good money very fast. You get everything that you want.
LESTER: For the first time their President is a worker, a poor man made good. On Sao Paulo's central Avenida Paulista, tens of thousands declare their hope that Lula will make things better. If he is to deliver on that promise, Lula has to reverse the violence tearing at Brazil's cities, to bring security and opportunity to those who see him as one of their own.