The most recent poll I could find, says Marcelo Freixo is trailing the other Mercelo Crivella in Rio’s mayoral election by 17 points 29% to Crivella’s 46%
It’s an interesting race at an crucial and heartbreaking time for Rio.
The Pacification process had reached its apex, the UPP installations were in place, and for a few long months, Rio de Janeiro experienced a lull in the seemingly endless back and forth between the drug gangs, the militias, and the police.
We knew it couldn’t last, that it was just a matter of time before things boiled over again. And they have. The simmer started before the Olympics, street crime was on the rise and even the arrastoes and broad daylight assaults started up again.
Before the arrest of Nem and the UPP’s arrival in Rocinha, it was a well-known fact that street crime had been called off limits in the South Zone. But the proof was in the every-day life, there was very little fear of street crime especially muggings. Crime began to climb, police raids on favelas increased as the games approached and, during the games the Olympic host city was flush with police and military tasked with maintaining order and security. None the less, crime continued to increase and reports surfaced of crimes committed daily, including even a street mugging of Brazil’s Justice Minister Felipe Seixas in Rio as he departed the opening ceremonies.
Since then, crime is back to normal and worse. Just this year, according to police, there have been 846 people hurt or killed by stray bullets in Rio. The country as a whole has 160 killings per day in 2015.
There is clearly a precipitous rise in urban crime, with no end in sight and certainly no meaningful solutions.
One can’t help but wonder, what good more government belt-tightening, privatization, and free-market boosterism, the likes of which Crivella is offering, could do? How will any of that cure street crime which is inextricably linked to the social exclusion and suffering associated with twins of urban poverty and racial inequality? Haven’t we tried all of that?
And I don’t mean to suggest that left-wing policies and planning have an exclusive bead on reducing poverty and crime, but what good would come of privatizing public schools, for example? Will private schools open in favela neighborhoods? What incentive would a private entity have to do that?
Open youtube and look for videos of Rio and crime, you see cell phone video after cell phone video of broad daylight robberies committed by teenagers in flip flips and board shorts. Those “marginais” are committing those crimes because of profound unmet needs in their lives.
What those kids need to hear is what these candidates would do to meet those unmet needs. How far would it go to have even proper waste disposal in the peripheral neighborhoods? What about safe and available utilities? Transportation? Would increasing those public services generate jobs? Wouldn’t it bridge the void between the morros and the asfalto? Wouldn’t inclusion deter crime? After all how many people, no matter how desperate, would rob a trusted friend or neighbor?
I’ll paraphrase Jaime Lerner who said, a city with favelas is no city at all. AT that rate—at the rate of 1/5 of Cariocas living in favelas—Rio is no city at all. But Rio is a wonderful place, the city of evergreen optimism and love. A city like that can solve problems like these. A new mayor won’t be able to do it all, but he sure could get them started down the right path. Such a mayor would need to start by including favela residents in his audience, accepting them as fair and equal citizens. Certainly meaningful gestures of inclusion, trust, and mutual regard would go a long way to reducing the number of stray bullets in the Marvelous City.