Street Gangs Have Replaced Police in Rio

To all the fellas planning a trip to Rio to find your own “Andressa” this is a must read

via Newsweek

Gardênia Azul, a flatland slum in the scruffy west end of Rio de Janeiro, isn’t much to look at. But don’t tell that to Juliana. She moved there from Cidade de Deus (City of God), the bullet-riddled shantytown featured in the eponymous drugs-and-thugs film of 2002 that rattled polite Brazilians and earned Latin America’s fairest address lasting notoriety. At least in Gardênia there were no teenagers with Kalashnikovs or vendors hawking cocaine in the street. To Juliana, a manicurist with a four-year-old son, those things matter. “We can walk the streets any time of day or night,” she says. “I feel safe.”rio-slum-violence-hsmall-vertical

In Gardênia Azul safety is relative, and comes at a price. It’s the six percent markup that residents pay on a bottled gas for cooking or the steep rents the slumlords charge. Or the fact that Juliana prefers not to use her real name when talking to a reporter. The reason for her reticence is “the militia”, a self-designated neighborhood police force that runs the favela with an iron heel and a hand in everyone’s pocket, taking a cut of all local business and services. No one is fond of the militia, which is often the corrupt twin of legitimate law enforcement with rogue cops acting as judge, jury and occasionally executioner. (Juliana won’t soon forget her neighbor’s 16-year-old, who was shot dead for smoking marijuana, his body dumped in the main square.) But to millions of people trying to get by in some of the meanest streets in the hemisphere, life involves hedging your bets by grabbing at whatever safety net you can. Cariocas, as city natives are called, light one candle to Cristo Redentor, the Art Deco Christ watching over Rio from the mountains, and another to the caveirão, the armored car police use to raid the outlaw favelas. And since neither authority has been up to the task, now the Cariocas are turning to the market. Continue reading