(WARNING: Disturbing image in link at end of article)
A Funk DJ in Belo Horizonte was shot dead outside his house in Pampulha last night by two motorcyclists that rode past him, confirmed it was him and then circled back to open fire. He was shot ten times and died at the scene.
Although police say they don’t know the motive for the killing, rumours are that DJ Paulinho was mixed up with the wrong girl – a girl already attached to someone dangerous. His death could have been as petty as that – seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?
The worst thing about it is that this motive has been seen before in the Brazilian music scene.
The rumours echo the murder of MC Daleste a few years back, a huge Funk star making $60,000 a night when he was murdered (reportedly by cops) live on stage. MC Daleste was supposed to have been fooling around with a girl attached to a big drug-trafficker. For that, he was killed.
DJ Paulinho wasn’t a mega-star DJ in Brazil, but he had enough sets that he would work the local Funk circuit in Belo Horizonte, and he’d toured in the US, Portugal and France. He had a song called “Vai Paulin Vai Paulin” which got pretty famous.
Although the advertising machine around Neymar works hard to make him appear a pretty nice guy, here’s six reasons why the footballer – rightly or wrongly – represents everything wrong with Brazil’s wealthy, corrupt elite and the crushing inequality these powerful figures create.
Brazilian politicians are famously corrupt. One politician was elected to Brazil’s Congress while under investigation for murder after having an adversary killed with a chain saw. Another is wanted by Interpol after being found guilty of diverting more than $10 million from a public road project to offshore bank accounts. I can’t find the source but I read recently that 60 per cent of Brazilian politicians are currently under police investigation.
2) He’s rich: Neymar was making 1.5 million reais a year at just 16 years old. He makes 9 million euros a year now playing for Barcelona.
And in the world of business the 15 Richest Families In Brazil are worth an estimated $122 billion — or about 5% of the country’s total GDP. Out of 65 Brazilian billionaires listed by FORBES in its World’s Billionaires list, 25 are blood relatives.
3) He’ll sell himself to the highest bidder: Neymar has sponsorship deals with Castrol, Red Bull, Volkswagen and Panasonic and an 11 year boot deal with Nike worth at least $1 million per year. There’s nothing wrong with footballers making hay while the sun shines, though.
Brazilian politicians see nothing wrong using the same “sponsorship” tactics, however. Municipal and state officials are close to the mega-corporations that run Brazil’s construction, beverage, transport, energy and food industries. The cost of building Brasilia’s World Cup stadium nearly tripled to $900m in public funds, for example, largely due to allegedly fraudulent billing.
4) He’s light-skinned: Neymar’s dying his hair blonde might seem insignificant, but it takes on huge cultural significance in a country that has a legacy of slavery and inequality. It’s known as “Branqueamento”, (“Whitening”) and can lead to a prosperous shift from the darker-skinned underclass to the lighter-skinned Brazilian elite.
Over 70 per cent of Brazilian politicians are light-skinned.
There’s nothing against a football player wanting to play for one of the biggest teams in the world, and those teams are in Europe. But it is a familiar desire amongst the wealthy Brazilian elite to leave the country (they have the power to change, rather than rob from) and in which they have made their fortune to hide their money in Cayman Islands bank accounts or spend it on handbags, iPhones and suits in New York and Europe.
6) He’s not afraid of backing out on a promise: Neymar promised his youth club Santos he wouldn’t leave them until after the 2014 World Cup. Santos consequently doubled his wages to raise him to European footballer salary levels.
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.
A 72-year-old woman was shot dead during a gun-battle between police and drug-traffickers last night in Favela Nova Brasília, part of the Complexo do Alemão in Rio de Janeiro, sparking a protest amongst residents that ran through the night. Three cars were set alight near the main coordination center of the city’s Police Pacification Units, permanent police stations set up in the middle of “pacified” favelas.
Both Maré and the Complexo do Alemão complexes are located close to the city’s main international airport and major central thoroughfares and public transport transit links, infrastructure critical to the World Cup.
The Maré favela was occupied by federal troops at the beginning of April in a bid to quell violence in the strategically-located shantytown ahead of the soccer tournament
According to police, a group of officers were patrolling at 18h30 when drug-traffickers shot at them. They returned fire and the elderly Arlinda Bezerra de Assis was shot during the exchange.
The Complexo do Alemão is one of the recently “pacified” favelas (“Pacificação”) in anticipation for the 2014 World Cup.
On the same day police arrested a man suspected of killing a police-officer earlier in the year. 21-year-old Ramires Roberto da Silva was found in an abandoned house in Alemão, and he reportedly tried to bribe the police with R$100,000 (about US$45,000 or £25k) if they let him go.
It is rising again, however. And it should also be noted that a lot of deaths are recorded as “Unexplained”, and don’t make the murder statistics. Bodies are regularly dumped in the jungle outside of big cities and, if ever found, recorded as unexplained.
In the order they feature in the list:
49) Brasilia scrapes into the Top 50 with 29 murders per 100,000 people.
48) Belo Horizonte barely scrapes in, too, with 29 murders per 100,000 people.
42) Curitiba is next on the list with 34 murders per 100,000 people.
30) Recife had 44 murders per 100,000 people.
28) Cuiaba had 45 per 100,000.
14) Salvador had 65 murders per 100,000 people.
13) Fortaleza tied with Salvador.
11) Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, had 70 murders for every 100,000 people.
No. 1 on the list is San Pedro Sula in the Honduras, with 169 murders for every 100,000 citizens, followed by cities in Venezuela and Mexico. A total of 15 Brazilian cities are featured on the list.
Money, luxury and showing off. “Funk” music coming out of São Paulo is all about being ostentatious (“Ostentação”) with your wealth, and that means designer clothes, imported cars, nightclubs and women.
Watching Funk Ostentação on Youtube is like watching 90’s American rap videos; singers throw champagne around in fake nightclubs, walk in front of expensive (hired) cars and hover-hand strippers that dance as if they’re not sure if the director yelled “Cut!” or not.
With lyrics that highlight an ambition to leave the favela and live the good life of women, nightclubs, cars and jewels, Funk Ostentação singers are self-fulfilling dream-makers. Videos on Youtube showing them counting fake US dollar bills and standing in front of expensive imported cars now make them tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue, and the biggest Funk Ostentação stars charge R$10,000 (US$4,000, £2,700) a show.
Four other Funk Ostentação MCs have also been shot dead, supposedly by ex-police “grupos de exterminio”(death-squads) targeting rappers with anti-police lyrics, although my sources tell me MC Daleste was killed for stealing a woman from a dangerous drug-trafficker. These rappers have gained a form of respect from even the middle classes, who normally scoff and talk about the hyper-sexualised lyrics of Funk Carioca music.
When an 18-year-old kid that used to wash cars is pulling in 10x more than a middle-aged doctor makes in a year, and goes on stage every night despite the threat of getting shot dead, how can you not stop and admire their bravado just a little?
BOPE, Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais, (lit: Special Police Operations Battalion) is a special forces unit of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Its tactics were made well-known in cinemas worldwide with the smash-hit Tropa de Elite and its sequel.
And BOPE has a crazy Twitter feed featuring pictures of all of the guns, drugs and money it’s confiscated from the favelas.
The official BOPE badge is a skull with a dagger stabbed through it and two guns behind its head.
The current police leader, Commissioner Sa, said today it’s getting a handle on crime, even though murders are rising in Rio de Janeiro.
He said: “A logo do bope pode parecer com o que usam os grupos de extermínio, mas isso é coincidencia.” (“The BOPE logo might look similar to one used by a death squad, but this is a coincidence.”)
He continued: “The BOPE is a special, tactical squad, like a SWAT team, prepared for the most dangerous situations. The image is meant to signify they may have to face the possibility of their own death and overcome that, not to celebrate killing.”
News articles, videos and images looking at life and living in modern Brazil.