Tag Archives: Rio de Janeiro

Cliff-top view of South America’s largest favela Rocinha from “Dois Irmaos” in Rio de Janeiro

Here’s a video looking over the edge down into Brazil and South America’s largest favela, Rocinha, from the “Dois Irmaos” mountain 500 metres above, in Rio de Janeiro.

It zooms right into the favela and across to the luxury beaches and apartments by the ocean, and then back out towards the mountains further along the Rio de Janeiro coastline.

The Rocinha favela is considered “pacified” by the police, and it’s true tourists can walk along the main road without fear of robbery. However, further into the favela the drug-trafficking regimes still rule the area, and crime is still ongoing for most of its 800,000 residents. As proof, I heard the sound of automatic gunfire echoing through the valley one morning as I hiked the Dois Irmaos mountain alone.

Access to the Dois Irmaos trail is through the Vidigal favela, itself a pretty difficult hike through steep, twisting favela streets. The neighbourhood’s really interesting, though, and there’s an Acai shop along the way.

The view from Dois Irmaos is better than the views from either Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf mountain, both of which you can see from Dois Irmaos.


Protests after 72-year-old woman shot dead in Rio favela Alemão

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. 

21-year-old Ramires Roberto da Silva was found in an abandoned house in Alemão, tried to bribe police with R$100,000
21-year-old Ramires Roberto da Silva was found in an abandoned house in Alemão, tried to bribe police with R$100,000

Eight of Brazil’s 12 World Cup host cities are in the 50 most dangerous cities in the World

Empty perfume bottles used to deal drugs found in an abandoned house in Rio de Janeiro.
Empty perfume bottles used to deal drugs found in an abandoned house in Rio de Janeiro.

Out of Brazil’s 12 host cities for the 2014 World Cup, eight of them feature in the top 50 deadliest cities in the world.

The city with the highest murder rate in Brazil is Maceió in the northern state of Bahia, close to Salvador, a World Cup host city. It had a staggering 85 murders per 100,000 residents last year.

See the list below, but speaking from my own perspective living in Belo Horizinte (No. 48 on the list), I feel fairly safe on the streets, and the murders are contained to the poorer areas of the city, where drug-dealing and corruption are rife. Visiting tourists might get mugged, but as long as you hand everything over without a fight you’re unlikely to get killed (Youtube link).

Two striking omissions from the list: São Paulo is now approaching the 10 homicides per 100,000 mark, down from 35 in 1999, and in Rio de Janeiro the murder rate dropped from 42 murders per 100,000 in 2005 to 24 murders per 100,000 in 2012.

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.

A Rio de Janeiro's tools of the trade: a gun, a bullet-proof vest and a mobile phone.
A Rio de Janeiro’s tools of the trade: a 9mm handgun, a bullet-proof vest and a mobile phone.

One-bedroom apartment in downtown Belo Horizonte *now selling* for a mere US$180,000

That’s a tiny one-bedroom apartment in downtown Belo Horizonte for £108,000. Think about how much house that buys in Miami or Manchester, and then remember the average annual salary in Brazil is £6000, or US$10,000.

The price for a home in Belo Horizonte has increased 93 per cent since 2009.  In Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro property has risen 200 per cent in six years, a boom that began right after the financial crash in the US.

Analysts say Brazil is not experiencing a property bubble like the US, however, because mortgages are only given to those who can prove monthly payments would be no more than 30 percent of their income. As such, only 20 percent of Brazilians have mortgage debt.

And yet the chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics estimates that Brazil’s residential real estate market may be overvalued by as much as 50 per cent.

How to make a million dollars a year in Brazil: Funk Ostentação music – São Paulo rappers, gold, champagne and cars

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.

Funkeiros ostentação - these guys can make £60,000 (US$100,000) a month here in Brazil...
Funkeiros ostentação – these guys can make £60,000 (US$100,000) a month here in Brazil…

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.

Although this kind of wasteful excess seems arrogant and cruel given the huge inequality between rich and poor in Brazil, its biggest stars talk freely about their lives before they became stars – MC Tchesko sold pastries from a street-cart and MC Felipinho washed cars.

MC Guime
MC Guime

The new style of Funk made headlines last year when MC Daleste was shot dead live on stage in Sao Paulo. MC Daleste was pulling in £60,000 a month as a rapper before he was shot dead (link to his Youtube video).

MC Daleste was making £60,000 a month as a rapper before he was shot dead on stage.
MC Daleste was making £60,000 a month as a Funk rapper before he was shot dead on stage.

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?

Rio de Janeiro’s favela drug-dealer extermination squad “BOPE” has its own Twitter feed…

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.

Guns, bullets, binoculars and grenades

BOPE seized an AK47, 5 grenades, 647 AK47 rounds, 133 rounds of .40 ammunition and $R31,920 (about US$20,000)
BOPE seized an AK47, five grenades, 647 AK47 rounds, 133 rounds of .40 ammunition and $R31,920 (about US$20,000).

BOPEThe official BOPE badge is a skull with a dagger stabbed through it and two guns behind its head.

BOPE’s former police leader is awaiting trial accused of the torture and murder of a street-protester, whose body has never been found and has been presumed dumped in the jungle. Confidence in BOPE is at a low.

Cocaine, radio transmitters and ammo
Cocaine, radio transmitters and ammo

The current police leader, Commissioner Sa, said today it’s getting a handle on crime, even though murders are rising in Rio de Janeiro.

Weed, cocaine, guns and ammo

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.”)

"BOPE just apprehended two men with drugs."
“BOPE just apprehended two men with drugs.”

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.”

Five blocks of weed and two gallons of ether.
Five blocks of weed and two gallons of ether.
400 pounds of weed, five pounds of base paste and 3,358 bags of cocaine.
400 pounds of weed, five pounds of base paste and 3,358 bags of cocaine.
Bags of AK47 rounds
Bags of AK47 rounds