What Olympic Fans Won’t See in Rio de Janeiro
Residents of Mangueira, a poor neighbourhood atop a hill outside Rio de Janeiro, watched from their rooftops as the Olympics' opening-ceremony fireworks erupted from Maracanã stadium. They don't always have clean water or proper sanitation, but some of Rio's poorest people –residents of "favelas" like Mangueira – enjoy the best views in the city.
Only a few years ago it seemed possible that these favelas – once deemed no-go areas – could be toured by Olympic visitors. Thanks largely to a profound change in strategy that also led to a sharp decrease in killings by police, Rio had made real progress in reducing crime.
And in its bid to host the Olympics, the Brazilian government vowed that the games would act "as a big catalyst" for long-term security improvements in Rio de Janeiro. For a while, that promise seemed attainable.
But in 2013, progress stalled. Homicides bounced back after several years of decline. Soon after, killings by police began to rise again. Last year, Rio police killed 645 people, three-quarters of them black, according to the cops' own figures.
What happened? To find out, I just spent six months interviewing more than 30 police officers and dozens of other officials. They speak of an ambitious policing programme that began well but is now crumbling under the weight of impunity and corruption.
For many decades, Rio de Janeiro has been a city divided between favelas and the more-affluent neighbourhoods that favela residents call the "asphalt," where residents enjoy proper streets, mail delivery, rubbish collection, and all the basic public services that most people in the 21st Century take for granted.
Drug gangs armed with automatic weapons control most of Rio´s favelas. Police engage them in military-style raids that often kill suspects and bystanders. While some of these killings have doubtless been in legitimate self-defence, many others have been extrajudicial executions.