Violence and bike-jacking beneath Rio’s party surface

‘So sad, so sad…’ Tania shakes her head and gazes forlornly at the floor.

She has just found out that her friend’s husband has been killed in a drive-by shooting at traffic lights about a kilometre from Ipanema beach…

The victim is a pilot for one of Brazil’s biggest airlines. Shot six  times in the back as he tried to escape the thieves’ clutches. In the end they didn’t even take the bike.

Tania, our 60-year-old host is typical of all the Rio cariocas we have come across so far – fun loving, lively and full of energy.

But simmering beneath the city’s party surface is the poverty and cocaine-fuelled favela violence that has given the city its reputation.

For most of those who are born into a favela a hard life earning just enough to survive, or a life of crime are still the only options.

With both a football World Cup and an Olympic Games coming to the city over the course of the next five years the Government is desperate to improve the situation.

It has invested some money into building schools and sports facilities inside the favelas to try and provide youngsters born into poverty and squalor with another path.

Police never used to patrol in these ‘no go’ zones, leaving the drug barons to their own devices. This is changing to a degree.

Tania tells us that officers are now beginning to penetrate into some favelas to try and tackle crack cocaine pushers, and the associated violence, but it is slow and difficult work, compounded by the fact that corruption is still thought to be rife in the police force.

Tania tells me that just a few weeks ago several top ranking officers were sent to jail for taking bribes and syphoning off public money.

But at least now such stories are being reported. In the last quarter of a century the emergence of democracy in Brazil has created a free press.

TV stations and newspapers now report about politics, social injustice and crime – a far cry from life under the military dictatorships that held sway here until the 1980s.

News is graphic, regularly showing dead bodies and on one occasion someone trying unsuccessfully to resuscitate a person who had been electrocuted.

Rio is a city of contrasts and contradictions – flat sandy beaches and tall green mountains, extremes of poverty and wealth, an obsession for keeping trim and a hedonistic desire to party.

I don’t think I’ve met anyone with a greater love for life than the people of Rio but equally I’ve never before heard so many stories of life being discarded so cheaply.



About travellingtoothbrushes

We are a couple of journalists with restless toothbrushes. Our teeth scrubbers seem unable to leap out of their respective washbags to take up a permanent residency on the bathroom shelf. So, we've decided to let them live the way they want to and take them on a trip around South America...
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6 Responses to Violence and bike-jacking beneath Rio’s party surface

  1. Tony Collins says:

    Glad to see you’re having such a great time in samba city! Your blog address has been circulated around Maverick where things continue at the same pace, you’ll be pleased to know.

  2. Hiya Pete,

    Make sure you save a little bit of cachaça for when we get back! Weather is still hot and humid, but still a bit overcast.

    Take it easy,

    Phil and Soph.

  3. Lindons says:

    Great piece…..just came back from New York and the amount of homeless and destitute people on the streets of manhattan against the rich backdrop of global capitalism was startling…… So many gaps to fall through in America…. Can only imagine how magnified this must be where you are….for all it’s faults Europe has something right

    • Hiya Lindo,

      Great to hear from you… Interesting to read about your experience in New York. It seems to be every man for himself in Rio, no social security and if you are born in a favela, it appears to be almost impossible to break out of the cycle of poverty.

      • Lindons says:

        Very true mate, at least in the states you have a chance I guess… Would loveto go to rio…. Never been to lama other than mexico

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