Rio de Janeiro, city as host of the Olympic Games- 2016.
Since the football World Cup in 2014, there has in Rios favelas been suffering many fights that look like civil war. They have pacified many favelas and put criminal behind bars. Unfortunately, it has come back and the criminals have taken over and favelas drug market.
Demonstrations and riots are happening on a daily basis because of the Olympic Games. It has cost a lot of money to build up to the games, since it is both infrastructure and buildings you are about to change.
Cristo Redentor on the top of Corcovado.
It is a widespread problem - many of them have not been paid wages according to the builders in Rio and it is especially those who work for the public. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, police do not know whether they will be paid next month so that they take on the job, knowing full well that it is not certain they are paid their wages.
Frankly it is chaotic in traffic and it has been going on for the general Brazilian for the last few years. For some it may take up to 3 hours each way just to get to work. Many roads are half built and it is doubtful that they will be finished be before OL begins.
Many are afraid that Brazil will end up in a civil war due to the economic problems of the country. The only optimistic they see who can come out of it is the 500,000 tourists who come to Rio and help the economy a little. But it is unfortunately only a bandaid.
The authorities have made lots of improvements in the public transport and has given Rio city a makeover (down town) as they have been promising for many years before the Olympic Games.
In spite of large traffic challenges for Rios inhabitants, the transport solution is the biggest improvement. Rio has launched a new line of the metro to connect Ipanema and Barra da Tijuca. And a new train has started to run in downtown and new bus timetables.
There is now in Rio a large security due to barricading OL and there is more than 80,000 heavily armed soldiers and police to protect tourists. This is something the OSCE hascomplained about, since this is the only during the Olympics it will be done and not for their own protection after the Olympic Games. So daily life will unfortunately be the same again after the Olympic Games.
Military police (Policia do Exercito) of Brazil.
Police in favelas.
Around the risk of zika, then I will say it is nearly zero. I have not heard of some who had the virus, and the people I was around did not know anyone who had had the virus, so we think its whether it is the media who again tried to scare people away from the OL and Brazil.
Prison Island Ilha Grande and Julio de Almeida
One of the remarkable sites is Ilha Grande - Brazil's equivalent to Alcatraz. This is an island slightly out from the State of Rio de Janeiro, it has been used in the twentieth century as a prison island and which housed some of the most dangerous Brazilian prisoners.
Prison Island Ilha grande.
The prison was closed in 1994 and has since been a museum for tourists. The island’s population is around 2000 inhabitants young and old.
Prison island Ilha grande.
The prison museum is unfortunately closed due to Brazil’s economic crisis, so it was not possible to come in and see it.
So I went 16 km in vain that day in 42 degrees’ heat to observe the area. On the way back my friend and I have a little to drink so we sat in a small local restaurant.
While my friend went in to buy something to eat and drink for us, I got talking to an older gentleman by the name of Julio de Almeida. He told a lot of robber stories and I frankly did not believe him. When I came back to my room, I tried to Google his name.
A former prisoner Julio De Almeida.
Up popped a lot of information on the man and it proved that he spoke the truth. He had been in the same prison for more than fifty years on the island for more than 5 murders and a life on drugs and escaping from the police. Julio is now 85 years old and has a younger wife and children. He still lives on the island, just outside the prison walls.
Cocaine and West
Drug traffic, cocaine and crack cocaine is extremely prevalent in Brazil, not only in Rio de Janeiro but in all the towns.
Drugs in Brazil is one of the reasons for all the callous violence and murders that are committed. Cocaine is in relation to the European really cheap in Brazil, where 1 gram in Brazil costs about 5 USD (40 kr) and in Europe - from 500- 1000 dkr.
So there are some intermediaries in the world that earn big on the suffering of others. Especially in Favelas where it is the gangs and cartels which dominate.
There is committed between 3-4 killing each week officially, unofficially I wouldn’t even hazard to guess. The last few years have had the police special elite units BOPE and POLICIA MILITAR combatting gangs in the favelas, with many losses on both sides.
Police at work.
Several of favelas had been pacified, but unfortunately the gangs are taking over again. And you can see the fear in the eyes of the civilians, when they come in the cross fire between the gangs or police.
Graffiti on the wall in Favelas.
It is an everlasting war which cannot be overcome, as long as there is a section in Europe and the United States where there is a large demand on cocaine.
I saw many sad souls in Brazil and it is a sad fate, but as long as there is corruption, and drug flowing to the western countries it will not be better.
Terrible incident on mother’s day
What troubles me most and what I still think of was an incident on mother’s day.
I had been visiting my friends family, and on the way home, in the bus, we got stuck in traffic just outside of one of the worst slum areas. The reason for this was because a young boy of about 15-16 years old had been shot in the head, less than 10 metres away from us. We had stopped right beside him, so we could see him lying dead on the ground.
The police or rescue had not arrived so it had just happened.
In the future mother’s day will not be the same anymore for both the lad's parent and me.
Brazil - debunking of myths and stereotypes
In spite of the sometimes frightening contrast, I had a fantastic trip to Brazil, without any kind of problems. I met a lot of exciting people and made some new friends. And the most important thing is that I have a totally different view of the country and I will come back again one day.
Two saleswomen in a small store in Ilha grande.
It is not the cruel and dangerous country as everyone thinks about when they refer to Rio de Janeiro, obviously you have to be aware when you move around in the evening and in some parts of the city in the day. But as long as you act normally and don’t go flashing your wealth, you will be ok.
Contrasts of Rio de Janeiro.
The City of Rio is not a more dangerous place than as many other cities in the world. People are helpful if you have any questions and the police are some of the friendliest I have met.
Photographer Marchel Tino Johansson