Evilness under the Mist: Slums in Rio de Janeiro

With great expectation from the world, the Rio Olympics has just officially opened today, even though in the past year the society experienced various social problems, which strike the domestic stability of this BRICS member. From the government corruption scandal under the Rousseff administration, triggering massive demonstrations all over the country, which was followed by the outbreak of Zika virus. All these crises have badly affected to the world’s impression of this country and many have lost confidence towards the governance of the state. In fact in recent years, Brazil has constantly been criticized for building up all sort of “vanity projects”, such as hosting the World Cup and Olympic Games. Meanwhile the deep-rooted social problems and conflicts have been ignored, especially the problem of slums and related crimes.

For those who have watched the film “City of God” should not be strangers to the slums of Brazil. Although the scenes portrayed in the movie were from more than a decade ago, the problems in the slums have not been fully tackled. Now in Rio alone, there are already over one thousand slums. Most of them are situated right next to luxurious residential areas where people enjoy extravagant and fancy lifestyles, meanwhile just a few steps away from the park, scattered along the hillside like wildflowers are slum dwellings. Indeed, slums in Brazil are known as Favela, which is the Portuguese word for wildflowers. Only a street apart, but it feels like traveling into another world.

Rio has population of 6.32 million, one fifth of them live in slums. Some of the slums in Rio have a hundred years of history. At first they were temporary accommodation for people from the north who came to Rio in search of jobs, but over the years they have evolved into a community. There are lots of problems in this community. Since the slums are located on hillside, the collapse occurs frequently when the rainstorm comes. Extreme wealth disparity together with the demand for drugs in different social strata fuels more drug-related crimes in the slum, as well as gangs fight and other social problems. However, the brutality of police force further worsen the security situation in slum areas. Drug dealers, gangs and various criminal groups win the trust and loyalty of the poor through given food, medicine and other necessities. The depression of Brazilian economy in recent years has further strengthened the statue of these criminal groups.

During the weeks before the opening of Olympic Games, the Rio police has launched a series of actions targeting criminals in the slums. Large-scale violent conflicts and search operations have broken out, which intensified the confrontation between the police and the criminals.

Verses for Reflection:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)


  • That the Brazilian government will tackle the deep-seated social problems and improve the people’s living standards.
  • That God protects the residents in the slums from all kinds of crimes, and may God bring justice into the slums.