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Corruption Scandals Transform Rio de Janeiro Into a State of Ruins

12/19/2017 - 11h45

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SÉRGIO RANGEL
FROM RIO

Copacabana, Sunday, December 10th, 9:10 PM. A stampede echoes off the windows of middle class apartments immediately followed by the sound of three gunshots in-a-row. A few seconds later, a burst from a rifle breaks through the brief silence.

The sequence involving gunshots is yet another chapter in the endless clashes in the Cantagalo hillside, which was "occupied" by the Police Pacification Unit (UPP) in 2009 and became a tourist attraction during the "pacification miracle" promoted by then mayor and current inmate Sérgio Cabral (PMDB) during preparations leading up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games.

Earlier, in the beginning of the day, residents had registered a shootout in the Arará favela (slum) in Benfica on an app that tracks clashes in real time.

This community is famous for neighboring the José Frederico Marques public penitentiary where Cabral and politics from the last ten years are incarcerated. Former Governors Anthony and Rosinha Garotinho also spent time there.

Cabral, his former department secretaries and allied state congressmen spend the weekends listening to clandestine funk music coming from the neighboring favela as well as the shootouts, which are not at all uncommon.

The day-to-day routine of violence is only one indication of the Rio's near bankruptcy. The ruins are evident in nearly every sector - health, education, transportation, the petroleum industry.

Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão (PMDB Party), formerly Public Works Secretary for Cabral, seems to be keeping himself in power basically in order to maintain his partial immunity from prosecution.

While this is going on, public servants and pensioners will see December arrive again without having received their 13th salaries which were due at the end of 2016 yet. The homeless population is continuously increasing and UERJ (State University of Rio de Janeiro) is in agony.

At City Hall, Evangelical bishop Marcelo Crivella (PRB) spends his days deploring the inheritance left by his predecessor, Eduardo Paes, a Cabral ally. According to him, the Olympics didn't leave just one "white elephant" but a herd of them behind.

In this post-Olympics hangover, no Fluminense can predict what the future will bring. Only that 2018 should be at least as tough as this year has been. But who knows? Maybe a new wave of politicians will show up for the October elections.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

Read the article in the original language

Mauro Pimentel/AFP
Military troops patrol Botafogo neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Military troops patrol Botafogo neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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