Drugs & Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, & Public Security

By Enrique Desmond Arias | Go to book overview

FOUR
Santa Ana

At 2:00 P.M. on Friday, 4 August 1997, I climbed the gentle slope of Santa Ana Hill to visit a crèche run by the Catholic Church, which serves approximately forty children between the ages of two and four. To get there, one has to walk up a roughly paved path lined with small bars and stores from a city-maintained road that runs into the heart of the favela. All along the walk, smells of sewage and garbage running down the rocky slope in iridescent streams assault the climber. Just before arriving at the crèche, the path comes out into an open sunny area next to a large rock that overlooks the favela and, beyond, downtown Rio and the shimmering Guanabara Bay. Here young children fly kites during the day and traffickers and other adolescents flirt and gossip at night.

That day, I arrived in the crèche, a two-story, five-room building used for both day care and other church activities, to visit with Camilla, a short, voluble, and rotund middle-aged resident who serves as the cook and supervisor. Around 3:00 P.M., I sat in the window of one of the activities rooms, talking with the room coordinator about her life and the favela and watching a couple dozen toddlers, when a series of fireworks went off in a rapid sequence that ended with a loud boom from a higher caliber explosive. This, as all favela residents know, is one of the signals traffickers use to indicate that police have entered the hill.1 The coordinator and I looked at each other warily, knowing this could mean trouble, and I briefly thought that I should probably wait awhile before going down the hill. Then, with stunning rapidity, several bursts of gunfire broke out behind the building. The coordinator ran across the room screaming to get the children down closer to the ground, and I crouched and crawled to the relative safety of an interior wall where the children had congregated. For a few minutes, while the gunfire blazed behind us, I sat on the floor surrounded by scared children, one of whom, in the midst of the firefight, told me that she thought the police were “bad.” When the gunfire abated, I sat for a time with the children, talked about meaningless things, and drank their imaginary coffee and tea.

Later that afternoon, I walked down the hill. My contacts at the AM told me that

-97-

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Drugs & Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, & Public Security
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface - Departure ix
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction - Thinking about Social Violence in Brazil 1
  • One - Setting the Scene- Continuities and Discontinuities in a "Divided City" 18
  • Two - Network Approach to Criminal Politics 39
  • Three - Tubarão 61
  • Four - Santa Ana 97
  • Five - Vigário Geral 130
  • Six - Comparative Analysis of Criminal Networks in Brazil and Latin America 169
  • Seven - Theorizing the Politics of Social Violence 189
  • Epilogue - Rio 2005 207
  • Notes 217
  • Bibliography 241
  • Index 269
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