Amid the disarray in Donald Trump’s preparations to take office in January, his cabinet appointments have stood out.
The names floated for top foreign-facing positions — secretary of state in particular — have attracted dismay.
The president-elect is reportedly considering John Bolton, an Iraq war advocate and UN ambassador under George W. Bush, and Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and top Trump surrogate, for the role as the US’s top diplomat.
Many have sounded alarm about Bolton assuming the job, but Giuliani’s record as mayor and involvement with foreign countries has also caused concern.
According to The New York Times, Giuliani himself has given paid speeches to a Iranian opposition group that used to be on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist groups, and the firm he started after leaving office in 2001, Giuliani Partners, has had contracts with Qatar and worked with a company that has worked with and has ties to the Kremlin and other Russian figures.
But Giuliani, his firm, and its subsidiary, Giuliani Security and Safety — which boasts “affiliations and engagements in 63 countries across 6 continents” — have been particularly active in Latin America, where the former mayor has recommended many of the law-enforcement methods he pursued as mayor, which have been criticized in recent years for both their appropriateness and effectiveness.
After burnishing his reputation pursuing narcotics and corruption as a federal prosecutor and US attorney, Giuliani was elected mayor in New York City in 1994.
He turned his administration’s law-enforcement approach toward “Broken Windows” style policing, which claims cracking down on low-level offenses will help reduce serious crime.
Broken Windows methods, in the manner in which they have been applied, have been dogged by questions about effectiveness and accusations that they enable harassment of minority and marginalized groups.
Giuliani’s tenure, which saw Broken Windows-style policing expanded to include zero-tolerance policies, was characterized by fractious race relations and numerous allegations of police misconduct, including some high-profile killings.
That hasn’t deterred Giuliani from boosting those methods abroad.
Giuliani’s company partnered with Mexico City not long after he left office, offering crime-fighting advice to authorities there based on his time in New York.
As Mike LaSusa, a researcher focused on the region, wrote late last year:
“The report provided few concrete suggestions for combating police corruption and abuses, and contained just one brief paragraph on human rights. Aside from a chart that showed a positive correlation between robberies and unemployment, it also made no mention of poverty, inequality, or lack of jobs. General education was brought up once — to advocate programs to ‘instill in children respect for the police.'”
“Sold as a strategy to ‘clean up‘ the downtown area and boost investment, the plan was used by Mexico City elites to justify a crackdown on street vendors, unlicensed taxi drivers, and others deemed undesirable. Just as it had in New York City, Giuliani’s zero-tolerance strategy increased tensions between police and local communities while providing few sustained, demonstrable drops in major crimes.”
Some years later, Giuliani firm stepped in to advise Rio de Janeiro in 2009, around the time the Brazilian city was awarded hosting duties for the 2016 Olympics. LaSusa writes:
“Within months, Rio’s government instituted a ‘shock and order’ campaign similar to Giuliani’s other zero-tolerance policing experiments. Priorities shifted toward ‘cleaning up’ the city, which residents complained resulted in a wide range of police abuses including arbitrarily arresting busloads of black youths for visiting popular tourist beaches. Meanwhile, the Rio city government has stepped up violent evictions of residents of poor, largely black and brown favelas to make way for Olympics-related projects.”
In the years since, Brazilian police, and military police deployed to Rio in particular, have been criticized for their use of deadly force.
Recent reports have cited authorities in Rio for security forces’ “widespread impunity,” and the number of people killed by police jumped considerably each year between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, Rio’s police were responsible for one in five killings in the city.
Even now, despite years-long pacification efforts in violent parts of the city, clashes between criminal groups and police are still common, and the official response to that violence has led to human-rights concerns and worries about the over-militarization of police there.
In the years since, Giuliani and his firm have consulted elsewhere in the region, recently in El Salvador, which is racked by some of the highest levels of violence in the world.
Despite Giuliani’s assertion that gangs in the country needed to be “annihilated,” authorities have had little success against criminality, even as they’ve sent elite military brigades into the streets to confront urban gangs.
In the first eight months of 2016, security forces killed more than 370 people they called gang members, and more than 60 members of the national police and armed forces have been killed this year, likely by gang members.
Giuliani doesn’t dictate the day-to-day actions of law-enforcement and security forces in Latin America, but the policies and methods pushed by him and his firm have proven to be ill-suited for the region and its problems. That, coupled with his dealings with foreign firms and governments, raises concerns about how he will approach the job of secretary of state, should he be appointed to it.
Jerry Ratcliffe, criminal-justice department chair at Temple, told LaSusa that even if zero-tolerance approaches and related methods endorsed by Giuliani worked in the US, he’d be hesitant to support their use elsewhere, “unless a mechanism for how they can be tailored and made to fit for the local country is built into the process, because that’s hugely important.”
Giuliani doesn’t seem to share that concern.
“Sure, there are differences between New York City and Mexico City,” he said in October 2002, “but I’m not sure those differences are relevant to crime reduction.”