Brazilian Favelas

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Favelas in Rio de Janeiro: A Hidden Crisis

Imagine a place where all the houses are constructed from mud, wood, rocks, or maybe sometimes brick. Where the people are dressed in rags and the children are involved in drugs and violence. Imagine a place where shootings occur weekly and practically everyone has lost a loved one. This is no nightmare; it is very real. This is a description of a typical favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Plainly, “favela” is the translation of “slum” in Portuguese. There isn’t one specific favela- in Rio de Janeiro alone, there are over 750 located all around the city and on hillsides. The reason why you’ve probably never heard of a favela is because it’s never publicized, and practically no one knows about what really goes around inside the favelas. In Brazil, where there are both very rich people and extremely poor people living side by side, one of the biggest favelas, Rocinha, is actually located directly above one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro, and can be seen from the campus of the American School of Rio de Janeiro. Although the people in Rio know about the favelas, they tend to ignore it and consider it outside of their world.

The people who live in the favelas are referred to as “favelados”, which is highly derogatory, and not only means living in a favela, but also someone who is ghetto, poorly mannered, unruly, etc. The Lancet offers an accurate description of the conditions in which these people live in.

“In Rio, more than 1.2 million people live in the favelas on less than $1 per day. The residents lack access to the most basic public services, such as health care, education, and space for recreation. The results, Becker explains, are high incidences of malnutrition, diarrhea, pneumonia, leptospirosis, skin diseases, rotavirus, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, hypertension, heart disease, and strokes.” (Loewenberg)

As happens in many poor places, poverty leads to bigger problems. Poverty causes drug dealing, theft, and violence. The favelas in Rio de Janeiro are one of the most dangerous places in the world. In a single confrontation in one of the favelas in June 2007, 19 people were killed (Duffy). “Even by Rio’s standards, 2007 has been an exceptionally violent year; there were some 1,300 murders in the city in the first three months of the year alone” (Thompson). The violence that goes on in the favelas is not simply people mugging others, or men getting into fights. Since drug gangs control most of the favelas, they cause most of the violence in Rio. These gangs are composed of many well-armed members. There are often shootings between two different gangs, resulting in several deaths of both the people involved and others. Because of these shootings and other acts of violence, the police have intervened, and to some extent even worsened the situation. The people murdered are not only those shot by drug gangs, but many who are killed by the police.

“A factor of living in third world countries like Brazil is that you can’t usually trust the police” (Roadjunky). Instead of being a force of aid, the police have become a big problem in Brazil. Since they have intervened in the favelas, there are daily gun battles, resulting in even more deaths. The armored car in which police troops travel inside the favelas are bullet proof, and known as “Caveirão”, which translates to “Big Skull”. The logo on the side of the armored car represents the terror that the police generate in the favelas: it is a skull pierced by a knife, with two riffles behind it. Police troops are fighting a war instead of protecting a country- the only means they use are violence. Amnesty International is “a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights” (Amnesty International). They have highly criticizing the police’s efforts and actions towards the favelas.

“It says Brazil's public security policies have not only...
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