Brutal Crackdowns, Hidden Poverty: How Preparations for the Rio Olympics Hurt Afro-Brazilians

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In the next few weeks, Aug. 5-21, the city of Rio de Janeiro is going to host the 31st Olympic Games. Like a mother preparing her home for 500,000 tourists, Rio has swept the city’s poverty under the rug by increasing police and army presence in favelas. As a result, part of the local population isn’t that anxious about the games. Militarized police presence and violence are only some of the issues that have affected the Afro-Brazilian population living in Rio since the possibility of sports mega events such as the World Cup in 2014, and now the Olympic Games, became a reality in Brazil.

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“Urban segregation in Rio de Janeiro was aggravated with the preparation to receive the sports mega events,” anthropologist Luciane O. Rocha, a researcher at the Nucleo de Estudos da Cidadania Conflito e Violência Urbana of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, told The Root. “While the investments in housing and the majority of the spatial structure for the games were constructed in privileged areas, to the poorest areas were destined only violent actions from the policy and the army.”

Since 2014, the black population of Rio has complained that the government has been increasing police presence in favela communities, which aggravates an already problematic issue of violence between the poor and the police. Also, in 2014, Rio de Janeiro’s former governor Sergio Cabral requested the presence of military forces in the state to help pacify favela communities. More than 20,000 military officers are reported to be part of the security force for the Olympics. But it isn’t just the increased police presence that has many concerned; racial profiling of poor black youths inside the public transportation has also increased, and some have reportedly been denied access to wealthy neighborhoods close to beach areas.

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