Letter to the Editor, by Nicholas Storey
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – We will have been in Saquarema for six years in October this year. I have often referred to it as The Sleepy Hollow because it has always been so friendly, quiet and safe. High days and holidays have always brought city families here for the usual festivities.
Sadly, though, the place is all changing. We used to feel safer here than in London and even some provincial British towns. However, the drive to ‘pacify’ trouble spots in Rio de Janeiro, for the apparent purpose of encouraging sports’ tourism, has had a knock-on effect and that effect has been to displace the favela rough-necks to places like this.
Last Sunday evening at about 7PM I was walking along the front, towards our house, with a heavy bag of shopping when I saw a rusty bike lying by the pavement next to an unlit lamp-post and caught sight of a figure lurking there.
Incidentally, Brazil, the electricity company around here turns off the street lights outside empty houses which do not have electricity bills, giving robbers more cover.
I thought that the figure looked suspicious but I was in the middle of the road and not having been attacked here before, I just went on. Suddenly, with resolution and speed, the figure lurched out at me.
I had just enough time to swing the bag to put him off his balance. As he staggered, he cut me in the left side; just a nick but, given that he had not made any threat of violence, he was plainly not in any mood for talking about what he wanted, he was prepared to wound or kill for a bag of shopping.
Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to collect myself together and threaten him. The fact that I did so in BBC English must have added to his astonishment.
He hesitated, and I pulled out a couple of bottles of beer and furiously hurled them at him. He decided to get on his rusty bike and beetle off, in a hail of smashing glass and beer foam, to a softer target (possibly someone like our neighbor daughter who was robbed at gunpoint the day before, in the next road down).
It is not effective ‘pacification’ to displace trouble-makers from one location to another and I must say that I resent it and I am entitled to resent it. There is, though, something so typically Brazilian about the administrative and military process that has applied the measures that have sent these people here and it is high time that we saw much more of that ‘order’ and ‘progress’ on the Brazilian flag.
It is all very well joking about ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘how do you get an elephant into the fridge’ – but this kind of half-baked policy just won’t do!