Party Down, Favela Style

A Colt AR-15 rifle was aimed at my gut, an FMK-3 sub-machine gun a little lower. The men holding the weapons were barely that, and they shared a bottle of cheirinho da loló, passing the cheap petroleum either back and forth, sniffing it for a glossy high. This was a baile funk, Rio de Janeiro’s illegal block party of music, guns and narcotics, one of those all-night festas that exist in myth for those who cannot gain access to them or are fearful to attend. Let’s stop kidding ourselves: Rio will never be safe. The violence can only be contained, and only through random good fortune. I’ve seen it from both sides: with the cops in body armor and with the drug traffickers who control the favelas, blowing the life expectancy graph if they pass 20. It’s not that the government hasn’t tried to address problem, especially with the World Cup coming to town in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. For years, the state ordered daily police operations, attacking favelas with troops in helicopters and armored vehicles. It was a bloody policy that brought no change and only made good TV. Then the authorities changed tactics and began occupying select favelas with rookie cops, expelling the gangs and trying to pacify these neighborhoods for the people there raising families and running shops, and ducking bullets that pierce the walls of their homes. “It’s a success in the places where it’s going on,” said George Howell, director of the Rio office of the International Council on Security and Development. “But this policy is a troop surge. From an administrative standpoint, it’s not sustainable”. The pacification forces control just 26 of Rio’s roughly 1,000 favelas. Today, about the only thing that’s sustainable is the baile funk, the traffickers’ attempt at pacifying the people caught in their cynical grasp by throwing them free block parties. An open bar makes everybody forget their troubles for a night. In June, I attended the baile funk in Duque de Caxias, one of Rio’s most violent favelas, notorious for its murder rate, for local cops’ ties to narcotics trade and for Monstro de Caxias, a devil worshiper who attacked a former girlfriend with a sword. A young guy nicknamed Farinha took me there. He ran a community outreach program called Soldiers No More, which directed kids away from crime, into sports. That night, he wore a Lakers jersey. In greeting, he hugged members of Comando Vermelho, gang in control here, their guns flashing in the light of the alleys. We passed a speaker system 15 feet high and 100 feet long that ringed a small square. Music gives the party its name: baile funk is a rough, mean genre born in favelas, with lyrics about money, crime and the joy that the strong experience taking advantage of the weak (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

One Response to Party Down, Favela Style

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: I lived overseas before retiring and returning to Brazil in 2010. The country has made significant social and economic progress during my years abroad. For the first time, an opposition party – Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) led by former Pres Lula – came to power and took decisive action to address the existing (pornographic) income inequality from colonial times. Most Brazilians are better off today and the poor are rapidly joining the ranks of the middle class. Despite the economic and social progress, crime and violence became THE main problem afflicting the lives of millions of Brazilians. According to recent opinion polls, crime has even surpassed political corruption as the main problem facing society. Every single Brazilian city became more insecure and dangerous since I left the country 30 plus years ago. This has happened despite the gap between rich and poor being narrowed significantly. Law abiding citizens live in constant fear of being victims or losing their lives in armed robbery. Organized crime has infiltrated the political system, judiciary and security forces. As far as internal security, Brazil today resembles other countries in the region, particularly Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico. I hope crime can be reduced in the same way as poverty is being eradicated today. Hopefully, it is not too late to retake areas dominated by drug traffickers in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilians say that ‘God is Brazilian.’ Now is a good time to test the assertion.


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