Violence and unemployment on the rise in Rio

Violence and unemployment on the rise in Rio

A year after the 2016 Olympics, Rio finds itself in a security crisis as spikes in violence cause tourism to drop and businesses to close. Organized crime has taken over Rio’s slums, prompting the Armed Forces to deploy in an attempt to contain the situation.

2017: Rio’s worst year yet?

Rio de Janeiro was once the top destination for tourists visiting Brazil, but nowadays the Marvelous City resembles a war zone more than a tropical paradise. While violence in Rio has always been prevalent, it has reached an unprecedented level in 2017. It has worsened especially in Rocinha – home to 80,000 people and Latin America’s second largest slum.

In September, the violence in Rocinha spiked as two drug lords– Nem and Rogerio 157 – began a territorial dispute. It started as dealers loyal to Antonio Bonfim Lopes (Nem) invaded Rocinha to take control of drug dealing from Nem’s former security guard, Rogerio de Avelino da Silva (Rogerio 157). He has been the main drug lord in Rocinha since Nem was put in prison in 2011.

Rocinha suffered as the two drug lords fought it out. Buses were set on fire, police cars were hit by grenades, and the police arrested 24 suspects and confiscated 14 grenades, 25 rifles, and 7 homemade bombs. The situation prompted the Armed Forces to deploy 950 personnel to Rocinha to help the state military police.

Violence by the numbers

According to the Institute of Public Security (ISP), as of September 2017, there have been 4,974  violent deaths in the state of Rio with a majority coming from Rio’s capital, a 10.9% increase from 2016.

From January through August, 1,894 guns were seized and the incidence of street robberies reached an astounding 71,146. By the end of October, 116 police officers had been assassinated, and according to the Municipal Secretariat of Education, 161,283 students could not attend class due to shootings this year.

Rio’s violence has also affected its finances, as the worsening security situation is scaring away tourists. In 2017, at least 5 foreign tourists were killed, furthering Rio’s negative image. According to the National Confederation of Commerce of Goods, Services and Tourism (CNC), from January to August 2017, Rio lost 657 million reais of tourism revenue to violence. This spells bad news for Brazil, which is currently suffering from deep fiscal troubles

The most affected industries include restaurants and bars, transportation, hotels and inns. In the first quarter of 2017, 1,693 commercial establishments closed down in Rio, a 34% increase from 2016. Every hour and a half a visitor – Brazilian or foreigner – is robbed in Rio state.

A Datafolha poll in early October showed that 72% of people who live in Rio would move from the city if they could, a desire probably due to violence, as 67% of respondents had recently heard a gunshot.

The economic recession is likely to be partly for the recent uptick in violence, along with the state’s 21 billion reais of debt. Bad economic conditions have prompted high rates of unemployment. Further, these levels of violence create a feedback loop, as businesses struggle to create jobs in such an unstable climate.

Insufficient security measures

In October 2017, Marcinho VP, a drug trafficker who has been in prison for 21 years, stated that “drug trafficking in Rio finances electoral campaigns…corruption is the crime that kills the most amount of people in Brazil”. Brazil’s Justice Minister, Torquato Jardim, added his criticism to the politics of public security in Rio, adding that the police and city officials are partners with organized crime.

In order to project a semblance of order, the government has been investing heavily in public relations campaigns. The Brazilian government spent 158% more on marketing and advertising the efforts of the Armed forces and police in Rio, than on actual security operations. Moreover, a large portion of the total money spent on security is used to pay personnel and pensions.

Nevertheless, simply increasing spending is not the answer: more effective, targeted spending is key. A long term strategic plan for security in Rio is necessary, because Rio’s current security policies are reactive, not proactive. These reactive policies only create a temporary fix that does not address the root of the problems, and they do not keep track of, nor evaluate past and current efforts’ successes.

Categories: Latin America, Security

About Author

Lorena Valente

Lorena Valente is an Associate at Promontory Financial Group, an IBM company. Previously, she was a Consultant for the World Bank Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management Brazil Team. She has also held positions at the Inter-American Development Bank, Albright Stonebridge Group, and McLarty Associates where she performed political and economic risk analysis for Latin America, with a special focus on Brazil. She earned her MA in International Economics and Latin American Studies from Johns Hopkins SAIS, and her BA summa cum laude in Political Sciences from the George Washington University. Originally from Brazil, she speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and English. *Views and opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the author and are not endorsed by Promontory.