Thursday, March 17, 2011

Brazil's crusade for Olympics

When Brazil won the organization of Football World Cup and Rio the 2016 Olympic Games, the Brazilian statesmen were thankful to FIFA and IOC. These two organizations closed their eyes to the fact that Rio is the city with the highest murder rate in the world, and the authorities have no control over favelas, which are run by local gangs and almost represent a country in the country.

In efforts to change that, the Brazilians have hired Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, as a consultant. Known for being able to calm things even in Harlem, Giuliani’s job is to use his know-how in Brazil.  Giuliani is known for his strategy of "zero tolerance", according to which everyone who breaks the system must be punished, from the Mafia to the sellers of hot dogs on the street.

There is just one catch – New York is not Rio and Harlem is not Brazilian favelas. Police actions there are not just fight against crime, they are literally war against crime. Police entry into favelas is referred in local media as "liberation of territory".

The operation of the police and the army against gangs in November 2010, on the territory of Complexo do Alemão, the complex of 15 favelas, was the biggest operation in the history of liberation of favelas. Unfortunately, this operation showed that even Giuliani’s "zero tolerance" will not that easily set things right in the favelas . This historic operation was named “reconquista”(reconquest), because the Brazilians are doing exactly that, reconquesting their occupied territory. 

Complexo do Alemão is one of the most famous favelas. Until the operation in November 2010, it was controlled by the Red Command, a gang of over a thousand drug dealers and arms merchants. However, Giuliani’s "zero tolerance" is now only functioning if the military and the police constantly keep favelas under siege. But even that is not easy to do because of the "philosophy of favelas”. Favelas are not just some hovels framed in the squatter settlements – they have become a way of life.

After five day of heavy fire, the Governor of Rio triumphantly announced the liberation of Complexo do Alemão territory. What remained in the shadow of that triumph was the fact that more than 40 people, some of whom were civilians, were accidentally caught in the crossfire, and were killed. The Brazilian media were fascinated with the fact that the police and army, for the first time, acted as one.

This attack forced the opposing gangs to unite, for the first time in history. This means that real fights are yet to come. The bandits have already started to burn cars and city buses.  The criminals are using this tried recipe for years.  Whenever the police tries to enter one of their favela, they start with the riots.

The Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, says that, in this way, they are trying to create a picture for the public that will suggest that the authorities have no control.  "We do not want peace with criminals and terrorists. This time we will not retreat”, harshly says Paes.

A large number of criminals fled to the favelas on the hills above Rio, carrying heavy weapons. The picture of them fleeing was like a withdrawal of an army. Heavily armed police forces are now patrolling the streets of liberated favelas . On the other hand, heavily armed drug traffickers and their troops are now patrolling gang-controlled favelas, in expectation of more attacks.

The Brazilian police have trained a special unit, just for fights in the favelas. The operation from November 2010 is considered their best performance so far.  However, there are very few of those who believe that this country can keep fighting these criminals to the end.

Antonio Carlos Costa, director of Rio de Paz, anti-violence NGO, said that Rio needs more police officers that are better trained and better paid. "There is no way they can pacify all the communities. If you push the traffickers out of one area, they naturally just flow to another" – he said.

A growing number of people believe that Brazil needs to try a strategy of total isolation of favelas before the Olympic Games, rather than bring them in line. For example, in Alemao favela about 120,000 people live in ramshackle hovels, often with no electricity and no water, and they do not know of a different kind of life. Kids who are growing up there know that they have only two choices in life - to play football or to be criminals. If they don’t start playing for Barcelona, they will be playing with cocaine. And this cannot be corrected in 5 or less years.

In 2009, just two weeks after the announcement that Rio won the organization of Olympic Games, gangs knocked down a police helicopter. This caused a series of police raids in which about thirty people were killed. In August 2010, thirty-five people were imprisoned in a hotel with five stars – criminals from favela did this, while fleeing from the police. About sixty "to the teeth" armed criminals were returning from some party in the early hours. They were headed towards their ”base”, Rocinha, which is the biggest favela in Rio. The police spotted them and intercepted. Fifty of them managed to escape, but ten couldn’t so they rushed into an exclusive hotel and took hostages.

Jenson Button, famous Formula 1 driver experienced the spirit of favela on his own skin. When he was in Brazil for a race at Interlagos, he was attacked on the streets by armed bandits. He barely escaped alive.

Elza Santiago, a member of women’s cooperative that sells handcrafted goods to raise funds for education programs offered to women and children, thinks that everything will return the way it was when the Olympic Games are over. “Our people don’t have water. We’re walking up the hill to our favelas with water because we don’t have any. No one is talking about the Olympics, that is our Olympics.”

City of God

Favelas emerged in the late 19th century when the first black slaves were winning their freedom. Later, the favelas spread in several waves, especially as people from rural areas came to the city in search of a better life, and found only the misery of favelas. And once you enter a favela, it is hard to leave. Today, only in Rio there are more than a thousand favelas. There are mostly along the perimeter of the city, and in the case of Rio, that means surrounding hills.

Brazilian authorities have several times tried to implement some kind of slum urbanization (that is why some of favelas have stronger walls), but the spirit of favelas has proven to be indestructible. Drugs, crime and life on the street is the only thing the people who live there know. Some studies show that only 15 percent of the population in Rio’s favelas has expressed a desire to leave them.

Favelas, though not in a construction sense, follow the trends, so today 97 percent of homes have a television, 94 percent a refrigerator, and about 48 percent have a washing machine. About half of the people there have a mobile phone and 12 percent of homes have a computer.

Most accurate impression of favela is shown in the famous Brazilian film "City of God", about life in the favela of the same name - "Cidade de Deus". That film was often compared to Scorsese’s “GoodFellas”, but Scorsese’s movie begins with “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster" and characters from the "City of God" had no choice.

Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl

0 comments: on "Brazil's crusade for Olympics"

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails