This is not an easy article to write. Being a native of Brazil myself, I obviously root for the country to get better and stronger. And that's exactly why I can't stay quiet in this crucial moment. I won't mention all the amazingly beautiful nature, the warm and friendly people or the party atmosphere, that's well known. This is about the side you won't see in the Carnival pictures. So here is why you should not go to the Olympics in Rio:
- The rate of violence in Rio is outrageously high. Even if security measures are taken during the Games, it is impossible to make the city a safe place in time. Robberies with guns are very common everywhere: on the bus, at the beach, inside tunnels, on the street. A lot of them end up with people being killed, with a violent death rate 30 times bigger than the UK and six times bigger than the US.
- Since 2003, the same party controls the government of Rio de Janeiro and not a single effective measure has been taken to stop violence, drugs or gun trafficking or to help the life of millions who live in very poor conditions.
- Slums (called "favelas" in Portuguese) are absolutely everywhere, so the contrast of very rich people in shopping centres and expensive restaurants alongside people who can't afford a pair of shoes is something trivial in Rio.
- Besides having the third worst traffic in the world, public transportation is unsafe (mugging and robberies are very common on buses). The metro system is a bit better (although expensive and hot) and a line extension will be opened in time for the Games without running all the tests. So the Secretary of Transport warned that it will be closed immediately after the Games, leaving the population without a proper legacy.
- If the colour of your skin is black, you have high chances of being targeted by the truculent police, always looking for an excuse to arrest you. If the colour of your skin is very white, you might be seen as an easy target for mugging and labelled a 'gringo' (foreigner) full of dollars, pounds or euros.
- Beggars are an accepted part of the urban scenario. Some, as young as six-years-old, walk on the streets trying to sell candies or asking for cash but that doesn't seem to bother people either. They even have a kind (not!) nickname for children who ask for money and are likely to mug you: "pivete" (which is the Portuguese version of 'slumdog' and considered just as offensive).
- The image of a liberal and open country is not entirely true. Intolerance is everywhere. People who defend human rights and tougher laws against LGBT discrimination are branded by many as "radicals".
- Millions of people support and voted for Bolsonaro, a homophobic and racist politician who, among other things, thinks "the number of gays has increased because women are working". When voting for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, he dedicated his vote to the late colonel who tortured her and other demonstrators fighting against the Military Dictatorship in the country (there were no direct elections between 1964 and 1985).
- While Brazil spends billions in a such a huge event, their healthcare system is chaotic and people die waiting for a doctor every day in the corridors of public hospitals. The education system is poor and broken with investments disappearing on their way. And Sao Paulo's Governor is being investigated for stealing school lunch money.
- Many construction firms, sports delegates and businessmen connected to the Games are under investigation for corruption and bribery, making it obvious for anyone paying attention that a big chunk of the money invested or received during the Olympics will never go back to taxpayers in any form.
- Brazil's dramatic political situation has more plot twists than House of Cards. President Rousseff suffered a political coup when her vice-president, who belongs to another party, decided to break with the government and orchestrated an impeachment because she broke budget rules (the same way as former presidents and state governors also did, but with no punishment).
- On his first day, current president Michel Temer, who organised the coup, got rid of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Racial Equality and Women Rights. His new team of ministers is composed by 23 old white men. Some people say this is due to "competence" and "meritocracy" - they seem to think that no women is competent enough to be a minister under this government.
- Society is still extremely homophobic and sexist. Gay couples holding hands in public are subject to comments and physical violence in most places, while many people seem to believe that women who get raped are partially responsible if they are wearing revealing clothes.
- The Zika virus is still active and not being properly taken care of. Aedes Egypt, the mosquito responsible for the virus transmission, has been attacking Brazilians for decades with another disease - dengue - but no government has ever tackled the issue as it should. Current Health Minister, a creationist, also declared that the problem is the fact that the mosquito "doesn't behave itself". And he was not making a joke.
Being optimistic, there's a big chance you'll go to Brazil and find it exotic, fun and have a great time celebrating the Olympic Games, and all of the above might not affect you. Or perhaps you should wait for the opportunity to take part in a celebration of another country, where "safety", "democracy" and "human rights" are not useless concepts.
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