Police and Drug Lords Battle for the Streets of Rio

In the slums of Rio de Janeiro, police and drug lords battle for control while residents live in poverty.

Girls dance to baile funk -a genre in which lyrics often focus on urban violence and crime- at a party in Rocinha. Photo by Balazs Gardi

Rio de Janeiro’s reputation as a center for crime has long threatened to overshadow its glamour. But with the 2016 Olympics on the horizon and Brazil’s economy booming, there’s a new push to clean up the favelas, or slums, where violent drug bosses reign unchallenged. As Mac Margolis writes in this week’s edition of NEWSWEEK, Rio public safety director Jose Mariano Beltrame’s forces have made huge strides, “pacifying” 14 slums, firing almost 1,000 corrupt cops, and killing or arresting three major dons. But even with this progress, huge swaths of the city remain lawless and perilous. Photographer Balazs Gardi founded www.facingwatercrisis.org, a photography project devoted to documenting marginalized communities in extreme poverty. In 2008, he ventured into Rio’s favelas—both those under government control and those still in the throes of drug-lord control—to show what life is like for their inhabitants.

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2 thoughts on “Police and Drug Lords Battle for the Streets of Rio

  1. I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, and near north Jakarta the same kind of poverty take place. A house about 3x 4 meters made out of junks materials are for 3 families. They even sleep when they sit, because they can’t straighten then their legs. Drugs are the answer to escape from the daily problems. The Government should really open their heart for them and give a hand. Let’s pray that God touches the heart of the officials to work at their best to help them.

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