Sao Paulo’s head of Civil Police has prepared a leaflet for visiting World Cup tourists for whom being mugged in the street by a robber with a gun “is an infrequent event”, and who “may attempt to react in the wrong way” (ie, fight back and get themselves killed).
Armed robberies in Brazil in which a ladrão approaches you with a gun in the street often end badly if the victim tries to fight back (Youtube link). For the ladrão armed robberies are a high-risk strategy, as they know the police will shoot them dead if they’re caught, so they prefer to make a clean getaway and leave no witnesses. This means shooting the victim dead if necessary.
As such, the advice not to react, shout or argue is good. I’d also add to keep looking down, and to not look the robber in the eyes too long. If they think you’re trying to memorise their face to describe to the police later, they’ll kill you.
Some more tips:
1) Keep big bills hidden somewhere. If you need to wander around with a few hundred reais on you, put it in your sock. Hand over the 40 reais you kept in your pocket to keep the ladrão happy.
2) Don’t wear watches and jewellery, and keep that camera in an old backpack, not around your neck. iPhones are like catnip here for ladrãos – don’t be wandering around playing on yours all day, or it will be swiped.
3) Take taxis and don’t walk around at night. Don’t use short-cuts through alleys and always be aware of who’s around you.
4) Be prepared to leave places pretty fast, and that might mean running.
5) Don’t romanticise the poverty here. Yes, there are newly-pacified favelas with colourful grafitti, guided tours and cute hostels, but when you arrive you’ll see how ugly the majority of the vast urban sprawl is around the big cities. Guided tours through historically-safe favelas are one thing, entering random favelas without permission is another. Favelas are mini-fiefdoms at the mercy of drug-dealing gangs, and they don’t like strangers.