Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Ricardo Moraes
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Rio de Janeiro is a truly diverse city where people of different types and economic classes live side by side. Many of its slums, or favelas, are strongholds of drug gangs who openly operate with high powered weapons in full view on the streets.
Despite the violent scenario, this mix of races and economies is the beauty of our city, and on the streets we are all the same people, and our friendships are as diverse as the city.
Being raised in a typical neighborhood, I’ve had my share of sad experiences related to violence, mostly in my adolescence by losing friends who became involved with bandits, or seeing some wonderful people losing their way with drugs. Every day we heard stories about young neighbors who had bad luck or made bad choices, and ended up in jail or were killed by the police.
Sometimes, such stories were about close friends, who grew up next to me.
It was very sad to see teenagers lose their lives so young, before they could find a better way of life, find their happiness or at least make a new start. Ever since I became interested in journalism, I wanted to tell those same stories of others who were just like those I knew.
The conflict in Rio is about drugs and money; gangs battle for the control of markets in the favelas, which for the record are poor neighborhoods filled with mostly good people. There, with their weapons and the absence of State, they create their own rules. But the drug gangs are not alone in capitalizing on slum dwellers’ fear. Militias, or paramilitary groups, charge the residents for security and basic services like transportation, cable TV, and bottled cooking gas.