This case study of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil argues that treating youth violence as an issue of criminality rather than citizenship, positions youth at the center of a “just war” that reproduces violence as a biopolitical strategy of conserving authority. Images of Rio’s favelas, the once ad hoc squatter settlements where more than one million favelados now reside, represent favelado youth as violent criminals. I trace the development of this public image through three key stages and argue that the status of favelado youth as criminals stems from violations of the state’s authority to regulate citizenship. The state and youth are fighting a war for control of the terms and conditions of citizenship(s). This perpetual violence is not resolvable through violence; effective approaches will begin with a paradigm shift that recognizes violence as a means of performing citizenship.