Just when you thought Brazil’s upcoming football World Cup could not get any more negative press, a video of armed Rio gangsters emptying whole clips into the air at a local favela (slum) game to celebrate a goal went viral.
The gang, all sporting traditional blue and green shirts, were ecstatic with joy, and as the striker of the local team who scored the goal ran out into the crowd to celebrate, AK-47s were pulled out and about 40 seconds of deafening noise was heard, Channel Globo reported.
The spectacle far from scaring the crowd simply annoyed them – everyone covered their ears as the five gangsters shot volleys and hugged Anderson Nascimento, the scorer for the local team VA Clube, which was competing in the semi-finals for the local Vila Alianca Cup, an amateur tournament organized in the favelas.
The owner of VA Clube, Frankie Ferreira, also heads the local drug trade and is the one who started to fire his AK. He loves his neighborhood, understands its realities, and organizes games and championships as a way to shine a ray of light into the lives of the humble community, local media reported.
There were also AR-15 and FAL rifles seen in the crowd. In Rio’s favelas that’s a normal scene, while Vila Alianca is among the largest in the south, accounting for the lion share of the local cocaine trade.
But what is surely going to bother the organizers of the World Cup is the fact that the gun problem never went away. Although the country’s giant population may account for an insignificant 3 percent of the world population, it hosts more murders than one could possible imagine, according to a report by the UNODC in 2012, – about one in ten!
The slums of Rio de Janeiro are considered to be among the most dangerous worldwide, with mass poverty and half the population armed to the teeth. This particular favela was settled in the 60s by people displaced from other similar slums in the southern parts.
When in the 80’s cocaine arrived from Bolivia, Vila Alianca became a hotbed of the drug trade, run by one of the most notorious gangs in Rio.
And that’s not the most worrying aspect. Rio is reasonably ok, with its beautiful legendary Maracana stadium, but its reputation for the number of guns and gang deaths doesn’t come close to some of the other cities that are due to host the World Cup games.
Now that the gun-toting video has made the rounds, the cup’s organizers and police are mounting a PR campaign to try to sway public opinion and reassure them that security will not be a problem.
But with the football cup coming up in mid-June, controversy over slum crime isn’t on the decline. The favelas are rising up against a range of issues, including police brutality and the economy. The so-called ‘Pacifying Police Units’ have been a contentious issue in Brazil ahead of the event, as protests are criminalized and violence – sometimes causing the deaths of innocent favela inhabitants – has been on the rise as they increasingly clash with authorities.
The government and the residents, naturally, have very differing perceptions of these stepped-up operations.