I had a first hand experience of the dangerous side of Brazil today. I have heard about times when huge crowds of kids and young, mainly lads, swarm an area, robbing everything and everyone (an Arrastaõ, the translation sort of means something like a drag net, sweeping an area) there are videos of it happening at Ipanema beach apparently. You hear the stories and think that it’s nuts but today I saw it happening.
I was waiting for Angelica outside her work in botafogo and a group of about 60 or 70, mainly young lads, ran across the street towards a bakery and swarmed the place. I was sitting outside Angelicas salon which was about 3 shops away from the Main Street which was getting robbed.
At first I didn’t know how serious it was so when the main group had passed after a few minutes I went to see what had happened, but I couldn’t see much. I looked behind me and people were running away and shops shutting their shutters so I figured I should probably be a bit more cautious and ran back to Angelicas salon. They had already shut their shutters so I knocked and they opened up for me.
About 5 minutes later the second owner of the salon came back and knocked for us to let him in. He had been in the bakery which was robbed. He said they had swarmed the place, robbed the cashier, customers and taken loads of food. Lucky for him he had seen them coming and jumped over the counter and chucked his wallet an phone in the bin so he avoided getting robbed.
Within an hour the story was on a main news site and they reported that 20 of the kids had been arrested and one guy had been shot. By that time a friend of Angelicas had text her as he knew it happened near her work, he was saying it was all made up so she informed him that we had watched the whole thing happen.
Then it turned out that he believed that it was all part of a social cleansing operation by the government. His reasons for thinking this are as follows.
The group only raided two or three shops, so the spree was short, yet twenty got arrested. He believes the police knew and were ready to catch the kids, which makes sense because in order to catch 20 people you need a huge number of police in the same place. He believes the government sent a kid in to set this raid up and get people involved, so that they can arrest these kids before the Olympics and keep them away from the tourists. There have already been reports of people from the favela stopped from visiting Ipanema and Copacobana. Social cleansing seems to be alive and well in Brazil.
On another note I saw my second dead body ever. The first was also here in Brazil. A guy had been hit off his motorbike and as we drove past there was a huge crowd of people taking photos and the ambulance weren’t doing anything, and the guy was lay out on his back, clearly dead, it didn’t affect me too much though, there was no blood or visible injury. This time though was a lot worse.
There was a bit of traffic on the road and I was on the bus, on the motorway back home after a weekend in Rio. The traffic started to go a bit slower and after a few minutes we got behind an ambulance sat in the middle lane. The back doors were open and the two ambulance staff ran out of their van and round to the front where I guessed the crash was. I have never really seen ambulance staff running at the scene of a crash so i could tell some serious stuff was taking place. As we worked our way past the ambulance the first thing I saw was the mangled front of a car, then a huge pool of blood about a metre wide, and then the guy. First I saw a mangled limb, as he came in to sight I realised it was his leg, which was bust open in multiple places, you could see a lot of his leg bones and I guess that’s where the blood was coming from.
He was lying on his side on the road in an awkward position not moving and looked pretty dead. They don’t really make an effort here to screen traffic accidents. So the left lane was scattered with glass and people continued driving past, and it was similar in the right lane which we passed by.
The more I thought about the state of this guy the more sick I felt, I had just eaten a whole packet of cookies and crisps so it could have been that too. It also made me have a good think about the fragility of life, and other such deep stuff. The end.