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Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro's idyllic beach, shaken by a wave of crime and "vigilantes"

2023-12-09T21:17:33.776Z

Highlights: Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana neighborhood has become the center of attention in Brazil. In recent weeks there have been a number of violent assaults and murders. Neighbors have organized and took to the streets with bats, fists and other weapons to hunt down suspected criminals. The situation has exposed the polarization of a country still divided after last year's election between then-far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who faces accusations of being soft on crime.


In recent weeks there have been a number of violent assaults and murders. Neighbors organize themselves to patrol the area.


Famous for its endless beach, Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana neighborhood has become the center of attention in Brazil these days due to an explosion of crime and the creation of neighborhood groups "vigilantes," which mobilized the authorities.

Some cases made headlines: a tourist who was in town for a Taylor Swift concert was stabbed to death on the beach; Another man was knocked unconscious after being beaten in a brutal assault, and a young woman was raped by a homeless man.

As a result, groups of neighbors organized and took to the streets with bats, fists and other weapons to hunt down suspected criminals.

Viral videos showed young men dressed in black, with their faces covered, patrolling the neighborhood and violently beating those they accused of committing crimes.

In a deeply unequal Brazil, the "vigilantes" were also accused of racism when it came to singling out their "suspects."

A country divided in the face of insecurity

The situation has exposed the polarization of a country still divided after last year's election between then-far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the center-left leader henarrowly defeated and who faces accusations from conservatives of being soft on crime.

Rio is no stranger to crime or backlash in response.

Five years ago, then-President Michel Temer deployed the military to take over security for 10 months, saying organized crime had become a "cancer" in Rio.

The host city of the 2016 Olympics is also the frequent scene of bloody battles between heavily armed drug gangs and police, usually in the "favelas."

The traditional Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: AFP

In addition, it has struggled for decades with militias that initially formed as neighborhood anti-crime committees and evolved into organized criminal groups.

But the latest explosion of violence in Copacabana is affecting the identity of a neighborhood known for its beachy, carefree vibe, whose residents often walk around in bathing suits and flip-flops.

"Copacabana is sad," said businessman Thiago Nogueira, 42, wearing a tank top with the print "Rio de Janeiro."

"The violence is really serious and it's getting worse," he told AFP.

Local businesses are also concerned about the impact on tourism, especially with the New Year's Eve holidays approaching.

The president of the hotel association HoteisRio called for harsher punishments to stop repeat offenders.

Police deployment

Robberies in Copacabana are up 25% this year from the same period last year, and pedestrian robberies are up 56%, according to news site G1, which cites figures from Brazil's Public Security Institute.

Authorities announced the deployment of 1,000 police officers and a "security cordon" at night and on weekends.

The visibility of patrols and the number of police arrests will also be increased to counter violence. In addition, they urged residents to leave policing in the hands of the police.

Authorities in Rio de Janeiro have tightened security at Copacabana Beach. Photo: AFP

"Vigilantes commit crimes on the grounds that they prevent other crimes. But they are also criminals," said Victor Santos, secretary of security for the state of Rio, a post recreated last month by right-wing Gov. Claudio Castro to address rising crime.

The residents' exaltation is fueled by a sense that the justice system is broken.

Two of the alleged thieves accused of killing Taylor Swift's 25-year-old fan on Nov. 19 had been arrested the day before for stealing chocolate from a warehouse, local media reported.

They were granted probation at their custody hearing. In total, the three suspects arrested in the case had been arrested 108 times.

In addition, the assailant who knocked a man unconscious on the sidewalk on Dec. 2 was "well known to authorities, with nine passages through the system," the lead investigator in the case said Thursday.

"The system collapsed," journalist Octavio Guedes wrote in a column for G1.

"When the message that 'the police arrest them, the courts release them' gets stuck in people's heads, it gives rise to another kind of barbarism: these vigilante groups," he added.

Source: AFP

CB

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2023-12-09

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