By Lunaé Parracho
The northeastern city of Salvador, Brazil’s third-largest, is a major tourist destination thanks to its beautiful beaches and popular festivals. Its Carnival is considered the world’s largest street party.
In spite of being idyllic in so many ways, this city suffers from an unprecedented explosion of violence in recent years, part of a national phenomenon with the migration of violence towards the north. While the murder rate has dropped more than 63% in the southeast in the past ten years, it has increased 86% in the northeast. That is according to the 2012 Map of Violence compiled by the Brazilian Center for Latin American Studies.
In Salvador, the murder rate has risen over 250%.
One of the police officers I spoke to summed up the situation clearly with his own personal tragedy. “We’re living in the middle of a war. I try not to leave home, and when I do I’m armed,” he said, asking to remain anonymous. He knows what it’s all about – his son was killed recently by a thief to steal his iPad. Just a teenager, he died as he was returning from school on the street near their home in an upscale neighborhood.
Across the city in the Fazenda Coutos slum, Lucia Menezes, 53, avoids going out too. “I only leave home to go to church,” she told me. Lucia also lost her son Ebert, 24, shot by police in their neighborhood on the city’s outskirts. The police allege that their patrol was shot at by five men, and that Ebert was hit during the firefight. Neighbors and family say that Herbert was not a criminal and was unarmed, and that he was shot in the back of the head.
Heartbroken, Lucia said she fears the police and therefore will not pursue punishment for her son’s killers. “God will be the one to judge this, because Jesus has eyes of fire.” She would still like to see the results of a real investigation only to have her son’s name cleared. “He was not a bandit,” she said.