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Beyond Tourism: Brazil May Not Be So Beautiful After All

For many people, mainly tourists, Brazil is a scenic and pristine location for ecotourism. Rio de Janeiro, the most visited city by foreign tourists, is the home of many iconic Brazilian hot spots. The beautiful city is overlooked by Christ the Redeemer, a statue of Jesus Christ with his arms open in order to accept the people of Rio de Janeiro. The statue was built as a symbol of piety for a city that had been feared to be godless by many of the inhabitants. The French started to construct this historic landmark, as well as the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, but what is unique about Christ the Redeemer is that it was funded without taxpayers’ money, with the help of small individual donations from Catholics and people of Brazil. Brazil is also famous for containing over 60% off the Amazon Rain Forest, a 2,700,000 square mile forest that provides a warm home for over 2,000 species of birds and mammals. The Amazon is populated with animals because of the warm climate, plant life, and food accessibility, as  well as different ecosystems that cater to the needs of the animals. Along with these picturesque tourists attractions, there are many other reasons to visit, such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

The 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil was vastly more successful than many of the tourist experts in Brazil had expected. The Tourism board had originally expected only 600,000 foreign tourists. However, the event proved to be a pleasant surprise for the Brazilians: despite an economic recession, the country managed to attract over a million tourists, 60% of which were visiting the country for the first time. 95% of these visitors said they intended to visit the country again. It is expected that the tourist numbers will grow to about 14 million tourists in the year of 2024. These numbers blew away the numbers of the South African World Cup, which managed to attract only 310,000 foreign tourists. Many expected that the World Cup in Brazil would perform similarly to the World Cup in South Africa mainly because both countries were underdeveloped. Despite both countries already having soccer stadiums, officials deemed these stadiums too small and unfit for the World Cup. Despite being considered underdeveloped, Brazilian officials managed to pull off an incredible feat, completing the construction of 12 world-class stadiums in time for the start of the World Cup. Though they succeeded in constructing stadiums, officials failed to build a fully functioning subway system. Brazil is now looking forward to hosting the 2016 World Cup, despite construction concerns. Yet, these concerns aside, there appear to be many more serious concerns for Brazil.

The objects and places inside of Brazil make it one of the most beautiful places on Earth, yet the people of Brazil also make the country one of the most dangerous places on Earth. In Brazil, there are 35 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants. This earns Brazil a spot in the top twenty countries for worst homicide rate and the nickname “Murder Capital of the World.” Although Rio de Janeiro has a homicide rate similar to that of New York City, many tourists still see the city as dangerous. The 2014 Men’s Duke Soccer team attended the World Cup, but attended by a guard armed with an assault rifle.

Gang violence is the reason for many of the homicides. Gangs in Brazil are notoriously brutal, often recruiting children because they receive lesser sentences if they are convicted of their crimes. Rio de Janeiro is peaceful because of the police intervention, but the North in Brazil is made dangerous by the crack-cocaine trade. Salvador, a city in North Brazil, is currently a war zone, split between the police and the violent gangs. The Comando de Paz (Peace Command) is currently controlling the drug trade of Brazil. Comando de Paz, like many gangs, was started in a prison. The original purpose of the gang was to fight for better rights for those imprisoned in the Bahia jails, but the gang later diversified to also seek revenge killings for members who were murdered in the Brazilian jails. The drug war in Brazil is very similar to an actual war: most gangs have made alliances with prison gangs. Grupo de Perna and the PCC have formed an alliance to control the prisons and the neighborhoods in Northern Brazil, allowing for more recruits. Controlling the prisons encourages many recruits to join the gang. Bahia prisons are often overcrowded and not properly staffed. There have been 218 inmate murders since the start of 2013; these murders occurred in 24 of Brazil’s 27 prisons. (The 3 other prisons have not released their information.) Gangs who control the prisons make life in prison easier for their members. Along with participating in the drug trade, murdering rivals, and recruiting children for these crimes, gangs participate in crimes such as the sex trade, car theft, and pickpocketing. Along with the danger that comes with crime, there is also the danger that comes with potential disease.

Brazil has also witnessed an increase in babies born with the birth defect known as Microcephaly, a defect that causes babies to be born without fully-grown brains and heads. Originally, it was a rare sight for the pediatricians of Brazil, but now it has become increasingly common. Brazil now is reasonably convinced that the Zika Virus and Microcephaly are related. Although there are no confirmed cases of Zika that have been caused in the US, 82 US citizens have contracted the virus after traveling and returning from Brazil. Although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have not found any cases of mosquitoes in the United States spreading Zika, it is believed that over the summer, southern states may be populated with the breed of mosquito that carries the Zika virus. Experts still expect that the Virus will not spread as quickly in the United States because of the spread out population and the use of air conditioning, more common in the States than in South America. Although this is not as large as a concern in America, Brazil has entertained the idea of building hotels without air conditioning, putting the guests of these hotels at as large of a risk as everyone in Brazil. A Professor at the University of Ottawa, Amir Attaran, believes that if the Olympics are not moved for the safety of the citizens of Brazil, the guests and the athletes, the Zika virus could lead to “a foreseeable global catastrophe.” Postponing the Olympics could lead to potential revenue loss, but compared to the potential loss of life, losing a few dollars could be worth it. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant woman against traveling to affected areas and officials in affected countries have advised women against pregnancy for as long as up to two years. Currently there is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, and the only way to prevent the virus is to avoid affected countries.

Along with the danger of poor security, danger, and disease, the fast-paced forced construction has lead to cut corners and ill-advised short cuts. Although Brazil was credited with the successful construction of 12 stadiums for the 2014 World Cup, construction for the 2016 Olympics has now become a concern. Recently, a wave demolished an elevated bike path, causing two confirmed deaths. This bike path cost an estimated 12.6 million dollars to build. Despite the large amount of money spent, the path collapsed when overwhelmed by a wave from the Rio de Janeiro Sea. The accident occurred only hours after the lighting of the Olympic Flame. The Bike path had been built to allow easier transportation to the events.

Political unrest may lead to the postponement of the Brazil Olympics as well. Currently, the President of Brazil has been suspended for 180 days, awaiting trial to be impeached. While President Dilma Rousseff is under investigations, her vice president will succeed her. President Rousseff is accused of violating budget laws. In a speech addressed to the media, Rousseff said, “I have made mistakes, but I have not committed any crimes. I am being judged unjustly, because I have followed the law to the letter.” President Rousseff is under the belief that she is the victim of a coup. “I am a victim of a political farce.” Vice President Temer has now become the acting President of Brazil and has now assumed the responsibilities for the 2016 Olympics. A Datfolha poll from April reported that an astonishing 63% of people agreed that the government was operating very ineffectively. President Rousseff is the first female president of the country and is currently serving in her second term, but much of Brazil is protesting for her impeachment. The people of Brazil distrust the government, since its officials allegedly stole money from oil companies belonging to Brazilian government. Itis believed that many members of President Rousseff’s party were involved in the corruption, as well as the former President, who is seen as a teacher to Rousseff. Although it appears that Rousseff was not involved, it harms her image that many people from the Workers’ Party, along with a close political associate, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, were involved in stealing from the workers. Brazil is currently going through one of its worst recessions in thirty years: inflation is at its highest rate in twelve years, and it is expected that unemployment will reach double digits after construction jobs for the Olympics are gone. Although the Workers’ Party has lead to an increase in financial equality and decrease in poverty of Brazil, it is still viewed as corrupt and authoritarian after its 13-year grip on the Government. It is a shame that a beautiful country such as Brazil has been controlled by the wrong people, such as corrupt government officials and gang leaders, and inhabited by a crippling parasite, but Brazil should not be rewarded with the great honor of hosting the 2016 Olympic games.

Although crime, corruption, and disease are prevalent in all communities, no country such as Brazil has ever been gifted with the privilege of hosting one of the greatest sporting events on Earth. The Olympics are televised all around the world  making it one of the most watched events on air, and many people have gained fame for their performances at the Olympics. During the 2014 World Cup, I allowed myself to be corrupted by the gilded beauty of the country. The 97% of tourists who said they would visit Brazil again have failed themselves by not familiarizing themselves with the true horrors and injustices of Brazil. The money earned from these two beautiful sporting events was stolen from the people who needed it most and given to thieves of Brazil. Many members of the Friends Academy community have been part of the lies being told about Brazil, and have thus been defrauded. I believe that Brazil will never be truly beautiful until it is beautiful to those who live in Brazil after the cameras leave.


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One Comment

  1. Carol Van Auken June 10, 2016

    Wow, Chris!  Nice job!

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