The Real Danger

Posted: November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sitting here with my roommate, I have been trying to analyse the real risk of staying here. Is BOPE dangerous? Will the traffickers try to rob us before fleeing?

The real danger currently is the fact that the UPP and BOPE are blocking off every exit from both Rocinha and Vidigal and the leadership of the drug gangs have all either fled or been captured. The low level managers and street soldiers are the only traffickers left and they know it. They also know that the enemy that they are fighting is far superior in numbers and skill. They are like rats caught in a trap, waiting for that final judgement. Only three options remain: die, hide, or go to prison. The helicopters and police at each exit are ensuring that the fourth option, flee, is not an option. I imagine most of them will hide, until of course the BOPE finds them during the 45 days that they are supposed to remain after the initial pacification. Some of them will choose death.

The problem with this turn of events, both for us and the other residents of Vidigal, is that up until Sunday there will be armed men who know that their lives as they know them are at an end. I do not mean to scare all of you, but only intend to describe where the real instability with the current situation lies. When BOPE invades on Sunday, it will be quick and relatively clean (assuming minimal resistance on the side of the traffickers). At our current position at the top of Vidigal, we will probably greeted in the wee hours of the morning by intimidating BOPE soldiers in their black uniforms and berets, descending from helicopters. I still have yet to come up with an excuse as to what the hell I am doing at the top of an unpacified favela. I will probably rely on the tactic I have used in other parts of Latin America when dealing with police: pretend that I don’t speak Portuguese and act like a dumb gringo.

  1. Justin says:

    alright, big man, questions. I assume this (a government pacification) has happened before, in other favelas or maybe Vidigal también. Do you know any stories? Do these campaigns always succeed or have they ever failed? Why was Vidigal chosen specifically? You mention the World Cup/Olympics, are they clearing the areas closest to the events? And if such a large amount of people live in the favelas collectively, do you think the government will be able to control all the vital ones? Be safe, much respect.

  2. ottrio says:

    Great questions Justin! My next update will be about your question. There are two favelas that serve as an example of what happens when favelas get pacified. Dona Marta and Complexo Alemao are two favelas that have incredibly different experiences with the process. Dona Marta is now a safe and vibrant community that is an ideal example of what can happen. Complexo Alemao is a large and gritty favela that the police failed to pacify and is now occupied by military troops.

  3. Justin says:

    Thanks for the reply stew, interesting examples. Check this photo essay that made the ny times:

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