Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Just Another Murder In Rio

It's common to hear about people being murdered nearby.  Last month a homeless guy was stabbed in the neck in Largo do Machado, a busy square I walk across with the kids at least twice a day.  Last year during carnival a young girl who lived in a squat in Lapa was murdered on the Gloria end of the Aterro do Flamengo, her body dumped near modern art museum.  That's where I jog.

Thankfully I didn't personally see either scene.  Until now I have soothed myself with the conviction that as a middle class woman whose reality is far removed from that of a homeless addict or street kid, I'm not a likely murder candidate.  I'm also neither a fraudster not exciting enough to inspire a crime of passion, so I feel pretty safe.  These murders seem completely abstract.  It doesn't mean I don't feel compassion for the victims -I think about that young girl every time I go for a run - but it's just that those sorts of things don't happen to people like me.

But then I hear about a 30 year old French guy who was murdered this weekend on rua Silveira Martins, just outside the clinic where I vaccinate my kids right here in Catete.  Apparently a 56 year old deranged crack addict randomly stabbed the victim, who was taking an ironic fag break during a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.  Now that makes me freak.  Crazies totally losing it just around the corner from my home killing Europeans in their thirties. Yikes.  How am I supposed to protect myself and my children from that?

Researching Rio's crack problem makes for scary reading.  The drug arrived here relatively late compared to Sao Paulo, allegedly because the city's drug lords decided it was so destructive that it would be bad for business in the long run.  But it's here now.  It's claimed that as many as 90% of Rio's homeless are crack addicts but that it's also an increasing vice of the 'respectable' classes.  More than half of crack users who ask for help through the public health system are middle class youngster.

It seems that it's naive of me, then, to think in terms of us and them.  The risks of living in Rio are not limited to the 'marginais'. The middle classes are just as much a part of this complicated equation. Whether they are crack addicts or, more likely, just enjoy a spliff once in a while, they are greasing the machine that destroys the lives of many people here in this city...it's just a shame that it takes a murder of 'someone like us' to make us realise that we all have blood on our hands.


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  2. The reality of the violence and the involvement of those in similar positions as us make it scary. Just random day to day actions can remind us that we live in a 3rd world country with things to work on.

    At the same time, living with blinders makes raising my children here easier. I see the abundant good and I ignore the bad. Personally, I think keeping hard working people in the country is important. I will keep my blinders on when it comes to this kind of thing

  3. Rachel,

    I have to disagree with your 3rd world explanation. In my opinion, this has more to do with Rio being a very large city where things like this do happen, like they do in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles or New York.
    100 people are shot in the Philadelphia metropolitan area every single day. Young military doctors are send to Philadephia Hospitals to train on how to treat bullet wounds, trust me, Rio is not that bad, people just freak out more and Brazilians are very dramatic and make a big fuss about the crime situation in Brazil while in the US things are quietly sweept under the rug, maybe because Americans are not so emotional or so dramatic as Brazilians are, but crime still happen in big cities, regardless what country.
    I have to go to New York often for work and while I do feel relatively safe ( and choose to put blinders on ), I hear about bodies being found under bridges and in Parks every single week. In New York what scares me the most is that the crimes tend to be of a sexual/rape nature. Many young women jogging early in the morning are found murdered and raped in New York city parks every year. Bodies are found floating around the rivers in Manhattan often, there is all kind of crime happening all the time.
    I choose to not focus on that, living in a big city, we need to always be careful, because these things do happen in big cities, regardless if you are in a 3rd world or 1st world city. This is a big city problem.
    I guess when you have millions of people living in one place, the chances are, crime will happen, murder will happen, it is sad, but just plain reality.


  4. I completely agree that this type of crime is a part of living in a huge city. For my part I was trying to make the point that those who think that smoking a joint is harmless, need to take some responsibility for the crimes that are committed by crackheads..in this city or any other for that matter.

    I don't think anyone can be held responsible for the sexual perversions of people that commit rape!

    Funny you mention Philly because I was going to use the example of a girl who was stabbed to death outside the Wholefoods on South Street when I lived there to illustrate that this type of thing happens everywhere. The difference is I think that she was killed by someone who knew her...(And I think that probably most people in the US are murdered by people that know them somehow)

    What scares me are the totally random crimes!

    1. What planet are you people living on? Rio is bad and it is one of the worst cities in the world with Favelas and poverty everywhere. People are suffering under the power of drug dealers and corrupted politicians and you try to ignore it. Do not compare it with USA or Europe. Check out credible statistics and history ASAP! books.

  5. Tasha,

    I agree with you, the random crimes scares me the most as well and you are correct again, in Philadelphia, over 90% of the shootings happens in Bar fights and drug dealear interactions...
    Most crimes in the Boston area are sex related crimes and happen in and around the campus of the many Universities in the area.
    New York has more of the random types of crime like the ones you see in Rio.
    I think by living in a big city like Rio or New York we just learn to behave in a certain way and avoid certain things at all costs. You would never be in a deserted street by yourself late at night for example. I have an Expat friend who lived in Sao Paulo and got a real beating that ended him in the Hospital with a broken nose and a few cracked ribs, He went to a concert on Anhebi and decided to park in a dark "no end" street to save 10 Reais for the Parking lot, that is something you just don't do, anywhere, don't try to save a few dollars parking and put yourself into a dangerous situation when the concert ended at late hours.
    There are places in Queens that I would never walk alone after dark, you should just take the basic precautions and you should be fine.



  6. rio is very bad maybe the olympics will change that?

  7. now don't compare rio to nyc or chicago.both chicago and nyc are far better different cities than rio which is nothing but an over populated dump!any foriegn man that goes to rio looking for sex from the ladies is a sick pervert!i live in chicago and we are a far much better looking city than rio but i'm happy that rio got the 2016 olympics because my city is half broke and corrupt!i backed my city's bid but after public employees were losing their jobs i got turned off!