The Olympic games will officially begin tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro. As athletes and Olympic officials rest and prepare in the multi-million dollar Olympic village tonight, the 1.5 million residents of the city’s poor neighborhoods, called favelas, hope to escape harm from either the hands of violent gang members or the police meant to stop them.
A recent story from Reuters’s Bradley Brooks breaks down the city’s failed attempt to gain control of the large number of murders happening within favelas. In 2008, 38 “police pacification units”—or UPPs—began to post more than 9,500 permanent officer positions within the neighborhoods to suppress violent gang activity.
While its initial five years managed to decrease the murder rate by 40 percent, public support for the program has since crumbled after the police began prosecuting and executing innocent residents.
The situation is now deteriorating. Over 1,500 murders occurred from January to June of this year. Meanwhile, 127 young, poor, black men killed were by officers in May and June of this year.
According to Reuters, Rio’s mayor Mayor Eduardo Paes blames state officials while Rio Security Chief Jose Beltrame points to his department’s budget being cut by 30 percent, an important fact when considering the state financial crisis and crippled security force for the games.
The imminent games are a key player to favelas current police brutality problem, Renata Neder, an Amnesty International human rights advisor, told Reuters.
“You increase the number of operations then you increase the number of people being killed. The security for the Games is resulting in rights violations,” said Neder.
Meanwhile, residents are left to wonder what will happen once the world takes its eyes off Rio in three weeks. A survey of 2,000 residents in 20 of the cities different slums found that 43 percent think the UPP program will drop post-Olympics while 41 said they think it will continue.