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!


  1. I can easily understand your frustration over your peaceful ,secure, “Sleepy Hollow” life being shattered by the reality of life. The way you handled the situation when the perp lurched forward at you was effective (also lucky) and your decision to threaten him took him by surprise especially when he hears BBC English being screamed at him. These few seconds of an unexpected response disoriented his entire plan and so he scurried off. Throwing the beer bottles with the smashing breaking glass and foam all over only enhanced his confusion. The Best Defense Is A Strong Offense. Your resolve to refuse to be a victim is built inside you proven by your instant reaction without hesitation. I applaud you.
    The part you are missing is the fact anytime criminals endure a crackdown they simply move on. This is not a Brazilian fact but a worldwide fact. To insult your host country isn’t the way to change things. The fact that streetlights are turned off outside unoccupied houses could be something changed by pointing this out to the right officials in the proper forum. To assume this criminal was displaced from a Rio favela is a jump in judgement in my opinion and I may be wrong. From what I know of the drug gangs in the favelas they do move on but don’t switch from being violent drug dealers or the footsoldiers for them into grocery bag stealing petty criminals who exchange their AK47’s for a knife. Petty criminals also are not forced out by the crackdowns.
    Look at the sustained crackdown on the cocaine cartels in Columbia. When it became too expensive to be based there they and others made Peru the new cocaine capital of South America. Crackdowns relocate the criminals no matter where the crackdowns happen.
    Thanks For Listening,
    John H.

  2. Nicholas, I want to congratulate you on taking matters into your own hands and dispensing a special kind of street justice. The war on crime will not be won by cowardly running to the police and giving up; These criminals need to learn the hard way. Had I been in your shoes I would have immediately disabled this idiot’s bike so that he had nowhere to go. He would have quickly realized he made a fatal error in his ways.

    I highly recommend you watch the Death Wish series of movies starring Charles Bronson. They are excellent movies that detail the life of a guy who is tired of thieves and robbers and is forced to take the law into his own hands. Also look up “Stone cold stunner” on Youtube. You should familiarize yourself with this wrestling move as it can render any would-be attacker harmless. After performing the move, wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin would usually pour a can of Budweiser (his beer of choice) all over his opponent as he lay unconscious. I feel this would be a better use of your beer than throwing them. You can also take a few sips before you pour.

    P.S. Don’t worry about the nick you received. Chicks dig scars!


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