Rio de Janeiro, Victimized by Drug Dealers

September 7, 2010

Tactical police stand by in front of the Intercontinental Hotel, in Sao Conrado Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 21, 2010. (c) ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images

Rio de Janeiro is back on the headlines.  This time it’s not for its role future role hosting the World Cup in 2014 or the Olympic games in 2016.  Rather, violence is again taking primary stage in the city.

On August 21st, 10 heavily armed drug dealers invaded a five stars hotel in Rio de Janeiro.  They took over 30 hostages for well over two hours. The InterContinental Hotel in Sao Conrado is located near Vidigal and Rocinha, two of Rio’s largest slums or favelas in Rio. According to local police, the men entered the Hotel to escape police gunshots.  Although the hostages were released, a woman died during the confrontation between the police and drug dealers.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated episode of violence in Rio de Janeiro.

Events as this one are just the tip of the iceberg related with the endemic violence originated by the drug trafficking industry in Rio. Drug dealers and militias make poor areas in Rio a ‘parallel’ power, leaving the government with limited or no control and influence in these communities.  Amnesty International believes that with their power over communities for illicit economic and political gain, militias threatened the lives of thousands of residents and the very institutions of the state. Public authorities, police officers and even judges receive repeated death threats from the militias. State authorities mounted a series of operations to combat the activities of the militias, leading to a number of arrests, but so far these efforts weren’t enough to stop violence in Rio.

Authorities should invest heavily in security in Brazil, not only to be able to host international events like the Olympic Games, but mainly to bring peace and safety to the local population, which is tired of living in fear and on the margin of the society.