Brazilian Police Officers Warn Visitors: Welcome to Hell
Passengers walk past a banner that reads “Welcome to hell” and two dummies in the likeness of dead policemen during a police protest, demanding their payments and better labor conditions, at the Tom Jobim International Airport, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, July 4, 2016. Brazil is suffering the worst recession in decades and Rio’s acting governor has declared a state of financial disaster this month, largely to bolster spending on security as the world’s spotlight turns to the city. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
The Summer Olympic Games were supposed to be Brazil’s big moment, but unprecedented political and economic crises, along with other occurring problems, have people questioning whether or not Brazil is ready for the Summer Games.
From corruption scandals, to health and security issues, Brazil is facing one of the hardest times in their history.
POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CRISES
Brazil’s economy is in its longest recession since the 1930s, which was triggered by a widespread corruption scandal involving Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras.
Since its transition to democracy more than three decades ago, Brazil is facing its greatest recession in 100 years, leading to a potential global health crisis. The largest economy in Latin America has now shrank 5.4% in the first quarter of this year.
Currently, there are 11.4 million unemployed Brazilians, up nearly 20% from a year ago, according to CNN.
“We are facing a strong financial and political crisis, so now its not the best moment to host this kind of event,” said Renan Melli, Brazilian native and former UCO student.
Congress has started an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rouseff that suspends the President from any work for a period of six months. The interim President, Michel Temer, isn’t having any luck, as three of his ministers have resigned because of corruption allegations.
“Brazil is going through a hard time right now. Beyond having our economy tank due to corruption scandals, our president is currently being tried for Impeachment processes and that only worsens our economical stand in the world,” said Barbara Lacerda, Brazilian native, and Political Science graduate from UCO.
In a short amount of time, the Brazilian dollar has lost its value, business were shut down, and crime has increased.
NATIONAL CRIMES AND TERRORISM THREATS
Brazil has a long reputation for muggings and kidnappings, but terrorism threats have also been made to Rio de Janeiro, after the attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
“We worry about the security of the people who are coming to see the Olympics. We know that this kind of event is a potential target to terrorism and, at the same time, I believe that we are not ready to deal with this situation,” said Melli.
One member of ISIS has tweeted after the Paris attacks in November 2015, saying Brazil would be the next target. Several ISIS members also have launched a Telegram channel in Portuguese, Brazil’s official language.
According to Brazil’s intelligence agency, the number of those influenced by ISIS ideology has increased in recent months.
VEJA, a Brazilian magazine, has displayed a report of intelligence illustrating that on a scale from 1 to 5, Brazil placed as a “4” when it comes to potential terrorist attacks.
Lt. Gen. Luiz Linhares with the Brazilian Ministry of Defense,reassured CNN that the Brazilian government is able to handle terrorism and the unthinkable. Linhares said authorities will be screening the names of hundreds of thousands coming to the Summer Games, and law enforcement will have a presence as well.
Recently, police officers have voiced their inability to protect visitors.
With a banner at the entrance of Rio’s airport, one of the busiest cities in the world, police officers wearing black protested: “Only in 2016, the unreported civil war in Rio de Janeiro has killed 60 police officers. The others remain unable to ensure your stay. Police and firemen without payment! Welcome to hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid, whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro won’t be safe.”
According to Amnesty International, Brazilian police ranks among the world’s most deadly occupations, being responsible for 1 in 5 homicides within the city of Rio in 2015. Fear, insecurity, and instability surrounds Brazilian police officers, and firefighters.
Gedeon de Souza e Silva, a retired police officer from Rio, has stated his frustration with the wages that have been cut and not fully paid. According to him, young police officers are lacking basic needs such as toilet paper, pen, and paper. A lot of police officers bring those items from home due to the lack in stock, he said.
Police officers are currently paid in an installed payment of wages, where they have to wait a period of time in order to get their full check. The country plans to deploy 80,000 police and military officials in order to secure games, nearly double the number who worked for London Games in 2012.
Even though police officials are not getting paid fully because of the lack in national money, billions of dollars are spent to implement a new infrastructure in Rio.
INFRASTRUCTURE ONLY FOR FOREIGNERS
Brazil has spent over R$ 36.7 billion for the Summer Games in Rio, which surpassed the estimated price calculated in January of this year. It has increased by over R$ 500 million, outweighing the costs of the World Cup held in Brazil by 43%.
“What is going to happen with all the infrastructure that has been created to the event? Is it going to be turned into benefits to our community?” questioned Melli.
Concerned Brazilians believe they won’t have access to the new infrastructure as it was made for visitors, and not residents of the city. The poorer areas are not being invested in, but being hidden from tourists and athletes instead.
Walls, and buildings were placed to separate the low income area from the Olympic structures.
“It is definitely not a good time for my country, but I believe we have the potential and the people to get through these hard times,” said Lacerda.
Complications with construction have also been voiced as the game approaches and subway lines, along with several Olympics sites, are still under construction. A subway that will transport athletes is set to be ready on August 1, only four days before the Olympics.
“We are completely sure that everything will be done by August 1. Of course the schedule is tight, but we have 8,000 people working during the days and nights. Everything is on schedule,” Scretary of Transportation for the state of Rio, Rodrigo Vieira, told CNN.
The few other projects completed for the Olympics don’t inspire too much confidence, as a newly built bike path along Rio de Janeiro’s seashore collapsed in April, killing two people. Homes around Rio’s Olympic Park were also demolished to make way for the Games, upsetting locals.
ZIKA VIRUS AND SUPERBACTERIA
Last month, 150 doctors and scientists displayed an open letter arguing that the 2016 Summer Games should be postponed or moved, due to health concerns.
“We have the Zika outbreak that, although serious, is out shined by our political instability, economic recession, and the Olympics that are just around the corner, but [they] have poor infrastructure that will only worsen the local administration and discontent with the Government,” said Lacerda.
Zika virus is spread primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. The virus can also be passed through sex, and also from a pregnant woman to her unborn fetus.
Zika infections in pregnant women have been linked to babies being born with microcephaly, resulting in the children being born with abnormally small heads and often developmental issues or sometimes even death. In Brazil, more than 2,400 cases of microcephaly have been reported this year in 20 Brazilian states.
Several athletes have showed their concern for their health, some even deciding not to participate in the Summer Games.
Rory Mcllroy, four time golf major winner, has joined a number of top golfers that have pulled out from the Rio Olympics because of fears over the virus.
The British Olympian Greg Rutherford, has frozen a sample of his sperm before attending the Summer Games in Brazil because of his concern over the Zika virus, and his desire to have more children.
Another health problem arising is the super bacteria found in Rio de Janeiro recently. According to researcher Renata Picao, the super bacteria entered the city’s waterways when sewage from a near hospital was channeled to the bay. The waste from the hospitals produced an enzyme that is resistant to antibiotics.
Rio de Janeiro’s poor sanitation and infrastructure is also responsible for the presence of the super bacteria.
Since the super-bacteria are resistant to most modern medications, doctors are relying on drugs that are toxic to the organism.
“It’s a nice sailing area but every time you get some water in your face, it feels like there’s some alien enemy entering your face,” German Paralympic sailor Heiko Krogerat told CNN at a recent visit to Rio. “I keep my nose and my lips closed.”
Residents and travelers have been told about the dangerous water and its correlation with urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections.