Rio’s Forgotten Health Crisis

Anne Vigna – Americas Quarterly, 06/16/2016

As Rio de Janeiro prepares to receive hundreds of thousands of tourists and athletes from over 200 countries for the Olympic Games, health authorities are working overtime to combat the spread of the Zika virus. But beyond Zika, the city hides shockingly high rates of tuberculosis, especially in its favelas.

The infectious lung disease, not common in Europe since the 18th and 19th centuries, killed a total of 840 people in Rio de Janeiro state in 2014, including 440 in the city itself.

That’s the highest number in any of the country’s 27 state capital cities, amounting to 6.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014.

Read More…


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.

Read more…

In Brazil, Pacification Paves Way For Baby Steps To Democracy

Catherine Osborn – NPR, 7/7/2014

As World Cup travelers in Brazil flock to Rio de Janeiro for the tournament’s final, many are staying in newly pacified favelas, or low-income neighborhoods.

Among the most popular is Vidigal, which rises up a steep hillside over some of Rio’s most scenic beaches and offers some of the city’s most beautiful views. A government program to drive crime from the historically violent slum has attracted entrepreneurs and investors and also nurtured a step toward democracy.

It’s a Tuesday night at the entrance to Vidigal, and than 100 people have gathered at a forum to debate the recent changes in their community.

Read more…

Nine killed in Brazil slum violence

Al Jazeera, 06/26/2013

At least nine people, including a police officer, have been killed in the Nova Holanda favela in Rio de Janeiro, authorities have said.

Authorities said on Tuesday the deaths occurred following a gun battle between police officers and criminals taking advantage of protests sweeping through the city to loot and steal.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Adam Raney, reporting from the favela, said he saw blood splattered on the walls of the homes of the dead.

Read more…

Rio, the olympic city, is a hub for progress in Brazil

Maria Paula Schmidt Carvalho – Quarterly Americas, 06/19/2013

If you walk today through Complexo do Alemão—an enormous Rio de Janeiro shantytown, or favela, that was once the frequent scene of gun battles—you can see the changes.  Last Christmas eve, the Brazilian Symphony performed a classical music concert in the community that, until recently, was so dangerous that police were afraid to enter it. People in the neighborhood, many of whom had never been to a concert before, were delighted.

To reach the neighborhood, you can now take the newly-installed cable car that resembles a gondola at an Alpine ski resort. Not only does it spare you the long climb in hot December weather—it offers a terrific view high above the 3.5 square kilometer neighborhood where 69,000 people live. The glass window reveals a giant and densely populated favela composed of poor houses unevenly distributed along narrow streets and small corridors. It is a unique and complex human map of haphazard paths and supply lines for water, electricity and gas.

The new cable car—which cost the Brazilian public $105 million—is part of the Brazilian federal government’s Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (Growth Acceleration Program—PAC), a huge urbanization project that has taken place in Rio’s poor communities. The cable car was constructed to make Complexo do Alemão more accessible. “The lift is a blessing for the ones who live at the top of the community. Now we feel free,” said Teresinha Maria de Oliveira, a washerwoman who has lived in the favela for decades.

Read more…

Redeemers of a macho society

The Economist, 06/15/2013

RIO DE JANEIRO is proof that even nature’s most lavish blessings cannot guarantee success. Rio lost its position as Brazil’s political capital to Brasília in 1960 and its status as the country’s business capital to São Paulo over the following decades. Gang wars and poor infrastructure have battered its tourist industry. The 2016 Olympic games represent the city’s best chance of reversing decades of decline. But is it capable of seizing the chance? That question towers over Rio like the rhetorical equivalent of the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

The person who will do more than anybody else to answer it is the head of the Municipal Olympic Company, Maria Sílvia Bastos Marques. She has the perfect background to lead an organisation that straddles the public and private sectors: a former boss of a steel company and director of Brazil’s two biggest companies, Petrobras and Vale, she has also held numerous positions in local government and served as the first female director on the board of Brazil’s huge development bank, BNDES. And she has a ready answer to any question.

What about logistics? She points to a map that shows the dedicated bus lanes and metro lines that will bring the scattered population to the games. What about Rio’s Byzantine government (power is divided between federal, state and municipal government, and the armed forces own huge chunks of land in the city)? She seems to know everyone who matters. What about crime? She notes that this is not her responsibility but quotes figures to show that the new “pacification” police are doing a good job. Ms Bastos Marques says she wants the games to transform her native city, speeding up projects that have been on the books for years—such as a 30-year-old scheme to upgrade the port district—to lay the foundations for long-term growth.

Read more…

Rio police tackle favelas as World Cup looms

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 06/10/2013

It was perhaps not the wisest question to a gangland boss: how good is your gun?

“These guns are the best,” said the Red Command patrão (neighbourhood boss), patting a Glock pistol with an extended 32-bullet clip. “I’ll show you.” With that, he pointed the barrel to the sky and let off a volley of half a dozen shots. “Do you understand now?”

The crackle of gunfire might have sparked consternation in many countries, but in this gang-controlled favela in the north of Rio de Janeiro, the sound was so commonplace that passersby barely broke stride. Three young gang members with Glocks and walkie-talkies looked up briefly and then continued chatting on the white plastic chairs that served as their sentry post. Drug users in the nearby crack den failed to stir at all. The police were nowhere in sight.

Read more…