Roberto Selbach

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Is it really as bad as it looks?

Hi, I have a question

Do you ever not?

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

Leonardo DaVinci? I’m proud of you. Go ahead.

Thank you. I’ve been reading all these horrific news stories about the Olympic games and Rio…

Oh that. Yeah, I’ve been getting asked that question regularly lately.

Is it really that bad?

Yes and no. There is a lot of sensationalism out there. But it’s bad and, at least to us Brazilians, not at all unexpected because Rio is widely known as a hellhole among us.

Years ago, when the games were announced, most of us in Brazil expected the worst. Rio is widely perceived by Brazilians as a hellhole.

I spent a whole month there once because of work and it left a strong mark in me. I’ve seen people being mugged, a dead body was left outside my hotel one night, I was in the middle of a shooting between rival gangs, and — crème de la crème — one day some big shot drug trafficker was killed in jail and what followed was, to me, surreal. The city is beautiful though.

What happened?

All thoughout that day, people kept telling me about the news of this guy who got killed. I could not care less, to be honest. But at the end of the day I finally understood when I tried leaving the office and people said I was nuts. I wasn’t allowed to go because the drug gangs issued a curfew on the city.

A. Curfew. On. The. City.

At times like that, commerces close their doors all over the place and the police completely disappears.

That’s insane! How is anyone safe during the games?!

Well, here’s where I point out that it’s probably not as bad as you’d think.

Wait what

Hold on. First of all, it is not in the gangs’ interest to attract international attention. They already have full control over the city, the police, etc. It’s in their best interest to wait the games out and then continue with business as usual. I doubt there will be problems with the drug traffic.

Second, there will be 50,000 security personnel there. FIFTY THOUSAND. And again, it’s in the powers that be’s interests that foreigners have a good time there. It will suck for people from Rio who will be hounded by the police and the army, though.

Just a couple of weeks ago the Brazilian Congress passed a special law granting de facto immunity to members of security forces who happen to commit crimes against civilians during the games. It’s going to be fun.

Wait what? Immunity

De facto. What the law does is transfer the authority of judging these cases to militaty justice. In practice, it means immunity. And the reason for the law was exactly to allow the police and the army to trump people’s rights in order to keep the peace. It’s so very Rio.

And terrorism?

Yeah, I don’t know. As we’ve seen these past weeks, you don’t need much to kill people. A rental truck is enough. So yes, there might be something. Then again, 50,000 security personnel. I’m guessing there might be easier targets out there. In short, I don’t know but I don’t think the risk is high enough to worry about it.

What will be horrible is already happening and mostly hidden from foreigners. It’s the human rights abuses against the poor. That to is very Rio. They’re make every effort to hide the poor and prevent them from being seen, no matter the cost. Thousands have been forcebly relocated already.

And in the end, what for? The city (and its people) won’t come out better after the games than before.

It’s depressing