With the 2014 FIFA World Cup less than two months away, tournament host Brazil is facing a major internal crisis at the centre of which is a favela – local term for slum.
Its capital city of Rio de Janeiro experienced a massive wave of violence on Tuesday night when the residents of a favela near Copacabana took to the streets to protest against the killing of a local dancer named Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, who was allegedly beaten to death by the local police.
Their protest quickly turned ugly and mass violence erupted as the mob vented its frustration on city property, while opportunists took advantage and vandalized whatever came in their way. Homemade bombs were hurled and numerous objects were set ablaze.
A team of elite police officers was sent to the Pavao-Pavaozinho area, which resulted in an exchange with the enraged mob.
The Globo network, for whom the deceased Pereira used to work, revealed that this latest round of slums versus police clash resulted in the death of another man. A 12-year-old boy was also shot at, but he survived and is being treated for his injuries. It remains unclear who fired the shots.
The epicenter of this unrest is within touching distance of the neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema – both of which are tourist hotspots and expected to receive thousands of foreign visitors when the World Cup kicks off in June.
Violent clashes of this kind have become quite frequent in Rio since 2008 when the authorities took the decision to set up 'police pacification units' in the city's drug-infested and gang-controlled slums.
With the city set to play an integral role in this summer's tournament, as well as the 2016 Olympics, measures to counter crime were positive steps. However, their enthusiasm to rid themselves of this menace frequently festers into cases of police brutality against common people. Pereira's is believed to be one such case. In reaction, angry backlashes have become a common sight and they need to be curbed if Brazil plans on organizing a peaceful tournament this summer.