As Rio de Janeiro prepared to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and Summer Olympic games in 2016, an enormous transformation was supposed to take place in the so-called “Marvelous City.” But in the decade between 2007—when Rio won its FIFA bid—and 2016, when the Olympics took place, 46,750 homicides occurred in the city’s metropolitan area.
When I think about Rio during those years, these are the things that come to mind: That it is named for a river that doesn’t exist; that the city’s religious patron is a saint, George, who carries a spear, who is the icon of today’s policemen and thugs, who carry assault weapons; that the police are ordinary men who drive modest cars home with pistols tucked between their legs, and that more are killed in the line of duty than from any other police force in the world. Dozens are shot at point-blank range when they are on their way to punch the clock and the gangsters, who hate them, see their badges shining.
Fernando, who is called by the authorities “the big trafficker,” lives hidden in his stuffy brick house, surrounded by bodyguards, unable to leave his favela.
André, a firefighter, drives his motorcycle to work early in the morning and then dons a yellow uniform and roams the streets, collecting the bodies of people murdered the night before.
Ana Paula continues to go into her son’s bedroom in the hope of seeing him again, and ends up remembering how beautiful he was before the police mistook him for a drug trafficker and killed him outside her door.
Leslie, a police reporter, says goodbye to his daughters and leaves home before dawn, already wearing his bulletproof vest. The policemen he accompanies on their patrols and raids kill more than a thousand poor young black men every year and say they all tried to resist arrest.