The Worst Predictions About Rio Haven’t Come True. That Tells Us a Few Things About Brazil and the Media.

Alex Cuadros – The New York Magazine, 08/11/2016

If you only saw the headlines in the lead-up to the Olympics, Rio de Janeiro sounded like the lawless city from a postapocalyptic movie: “Wave of deadly gunbattles hit Rio as the Olympics get closer”; “Body parts wash ashore next to Rio Olympic venue.” Glib listicles played up the threat of political unrest, terrorist attacks, Zika-carrying mosquitoes, and “super-bacteria” in the sewage-tainted bay. One writer used the term “disastrophe” to describe the situation and claimed that so-called “‘lightning kidnappings’ are nearly as popular in Brazil as feijoada” (a delicious bean stew). Another writer topped him with this analogy: “the global event equivalent of a fire tornado touching down on a killer bee sanctuary.”

It was like the Olympics of hyperbolic Olympics scaremongering. Now that the games are on, the hysteria is already looking misplaced. This would have been clear enough to anyone who simply took a walk around the city. The last time I went, at the end of June, Rio was functioning more or less in its usual way: slightly chaotic but manageably so, albeit with fresh construction for the Olympics marring what is perhaps the world’s most beautiful urban topography. Off of Copacabana Beach, I could see locals hopping waves — which suggested that concerns over the quality of the water might be somewhat inflated, too.

It was like the Olympics of hyperbolic Olympics scare-mongering.

I should disclose here that I myself have taken part in the Rio-bashing. I moved to Brazil in 2010, back when the country seemed on the verge of becoming a world power, and watched as the Olympics became an excuse to funnel public money to rich campaign donors for not always useful projects. Still, even I have to admit that Rio has made dramatic improvements in recent years. Perhaps the most dramatic is that the homicide rate, while still appallingly high, has fallen by two-thirds since the 1990s. Even after a spike in murders this year, it’s now less than half the rate in St. Louis, Missouri. And with 85,000 soldiers and police securing Rio for the Olympics, it’s probably one of the safest places in Latin America at the moment.

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Brazilian judge lifts suspension of WhatsApp

Vinod Sreeharsha – The New York Times, 05/03/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — A judge lifted the nationwide suspension of WhatsApp in Brazil on Tuesday, allowing the popular messaging service owned byFacebook to get up and running again.

The ruling, from Judge Ricardo Múcio Santana de Abreu Lima, overturned a lower court order that had led to WhatsApp being blocked on Monday afternoon. The suspension was supposed to last 72 hours.

Judge Múcio is one of 13 judges on the higher court in the northeastern state of Sergipe, where WhatsApp has become embroiled in an organized crime and drug trafficking case. Authorities are seeking information for the case from the messaging service, but WhatsApp has not complied with requests for data, leading to the court order on Monday.

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Brazil Boosts Security in “Pacified” District

Latin American Herald Tribune, 7/22/2014

Brazilian authorities on Monday strengthened security in a cluster of Rio de Janeiro shantytowns that were officially pacified four years ago after decades as a bastion of drug traffickers.

The additional police presence follows a violent weekend.

A police officer was wounded, two vehicles were burned and a police base was attacked on Sunday night by suspected drug dealers who evidently were acting in reprisal for the death of a young man during a gunfight and the jailing of one of their associates, Rio state police said.

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Brazil tries to fight cocaine trafficking at huge, porous borders

Juan Forero – The Washington Post, 01/24/2013

The jungle frontier between Brazil and Bolivia is longer than the U.S.-Mexico border, but on a recent day the task of stemming the cocaine that counterdrug officials say is flooding the country fell to a handful of Brazilian policemen.

In tiny border hamlets, the officers made their rounds, urging villagers to report what they’ve seen. In a speedboat, others patrolled the Mamore River separating the two countries, guessing which of the countless motorized canoes was carrying drugs bound for Brazil’s big cities.

“Here, the problem is grave, with lots of drugs crossing constantly,” said Alexandre Barbosa, one of 35 federal police officers assigned to this sector in Rondonia state in far western Brazil. “You see this region, where the frontier is separated by a river. So there are many ports. Every 100 meters, or sometimes less, you see a port. So you can move from one port to the other very fast.”

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Brazil: Dozens of police officers arrested, accused of taking bribes

CNN Wire Staff – CNN, 12/05/2012

Brazilian authorities arrested dozens of police officers on Tuesday, accusing them of taking bribes from drug traffickers.

The 61 officers were paid to turn a blind eye to criminal activity in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state, state public safety officials said. Investigators were still searching for two other officers suspected of involvement.

An investigation revealed that the officers had received payments of 2,500 reals (about $1,200) every time they patrolled certain communities, the state-run Agencia Brasil said, citing authorities.

Tuesday’s arrests, dubbed “Operation Purification,” come as authorities work to increase security in Rio de Janeiro and stamp out drug gangs before the 2014 World Cup and the Olympic Games two years later.

In October, police said they seized automatic weapons, guns and grenades and arrested dozens of people in a series of Rio de Janeiro slum raids. They announced they were going into the communities days in advance.

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Brazil cracks down on cocaine trafficking

Hector Velasco – AFP, 08/27/2012

Faced with rising cocaine consumption linked to economic prosperity, Brazil is cracking down harder on trafficking along its borders with three top neighboring coca leaf producers: Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.

“Our country is making headway economically and rising income translates into higher drug use,” said Oslain Santana, head of the federal police’s anti-organized crime task force.

“Cocaine consumption is the highest in the south and the southeast, where 60 percent of the population and 75 percent of the country’s GDP are concentrated,” he added.

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Brazil Eradicates Drug Crops in Peru

Jeremy McDermott – Insight Crime, 8/21/2012

As part of the ongoing “Operacion Trapecio” (Operation Trapeze), Brazilian Federal Police eradicated 100 hectares of coca crops, the raw material for cocaine, in the Peruvian Amazon, near the tri-border area where Brazil, Peru and Colombia intersect, reported La Republica.

The head of the Brazilian police force’s organized crime division, Oslain Santana, stated, “Eliminating the plants is more efficient than simply seizing drug shipments. [These plantations] are near the Brazil border and are going to supply the Brazilian market.”

Brazil has become not only a major transit point for cocaine moving abroad, but has Latin America’s largest domestic market (up to 100 tons per annum), with Bolivia and Peru the major suppliers. Drug consumption has become one of the major threats to Brazilian security and prompted this nation to dedicate increasing resources to fighting narcotics trafficking.

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Brazil deploys close to 9,000 troops along its borders in major anti-crime operation

Washington Post, 8/7/2012

SAO PAULO — The Brazilian government has sent close to 9,000 troops to its borders with four neighboring countries as part of a big two-week anti-crime operation.

Army, navy and air force personnel have been deployed along Brazil’s frontiers with Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, the Defense Ministry said on its website Tuesday.

The ministry said the operation, which began Monday, is aimed at stemming the inflow of drugs and arms and other contraband into Latin America’s biggest nation.

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Brazil sends troops to border to fight crime

CNN, 08/07/2012

Photo credit: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly 10,000 troops and civilians have been deployed to Brazil’s southern border region, in a show of force against illicit traffickers of all kinds who operate in the region, Brazil’s defense ministry said.

The deployment is the fifth such surge under a mission to reassert rule of law in the border area known as Operation Agatha.

The most recent operation began on Monday and will continue through the end of the month, the defense ministry said.

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