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July 5, 2006 by cosmoakacitizensmith

The journey was faultless. Long and tiring but I wasn´t my usual stressed out self, forever checking to see I´d brought everything and then vexing a lot when I realised I hadn´t.

No, this felt goooood!!!!!I was flying into Rio and just as we were about to land we heard the news not only that England had been knocked out the cup but Brazil was down one-nil to France.

Looking down at Rio as we flew low over the city, the night sky was suddenly lit up with fireworks. Then we heard more news. It was one-all!

Of course by the time we landed we heard it was all over for Brazil as well. So I was arriving in time for one big pooped party. But this was my first time out of Europe since God knows when and I was on the vibe to fly. F#ck it!!!

Gibby met me at the airport and a mate of his Alex gave us a lift through the city. It´s basically a warzone where 10 people die every day by the gun. The police are fighting a losing battle with the drug gangs, which are based in the shanty-town slum areas known as the favelas.

Last month down the road in Sao Paulo, the entire city of 18 million people was brought to a standstill for four days as the drug gangs demanded concessions from the government. Many of their leaders are in jail but like mafia dons they run the show from cell phones on the inside. One of the leaders sent a message to the chief of police along the lines of ´I can kill you but you can´t kill me.´ Such is their power.

Demands included putting TVs in jails so the drug lords could watch the World Cup. Seriously! The drug gang militias stomped through town, shut down the police stations, banks and businesses and people fled for their homes. The goverment negotiated and bingo, four days later Sao Paulo opened for business again.

Ironically a lot of the power of the drug gangs comes form the structures they developed while their leaders were in jail with the leftist revolutionaries, who took on the military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s. The leftists took over the prisons and organised themselves into tightly knit, inpenetrable, invincible cells.

The drug gangs watched and learned, copying the structures and re-organising their cells along similar lines. As a result of this, they are in the powerful position they are today.


But would you know that from wondering around downtown Rio? Not on your nellie mate. There is poverty here, yes, but the place is a world away from the things I describe.

Gibby has gone off to write an article which he wasn´t expecting to do: Brazil have been knocked out! He says, go out, have drink and meet some people. I think, yeah right, how am I gonna do that? I don´t speak any Portuguese for a start.

But I wonder down the road and find a place pumping out some music and where the beer and the good vibes are flowing despite the defeat. I wonder in, buy a beer and within seconds someone says: ´Americano?´I laugh and say ´No!!!!!´ and he makes some comments about George Bush and Iraq. I do the thumbs down sign, and the boy laughs. Next up people start talking to me randomly in very fractured English. I tell them I´m not English and I live in Wales, which they think is very funny. One guy introduces himself as Mel Gibson, and another says his name as ´Ronaldo, no player, no player!!!!´, a fact which he accompanies with vigorous shaking of his hands to indicate the negative.

I can´t stand for more than a few minutes without someone coming up and talking to me. By the time Gibby comes to find me, I have been made to feel like a visiting celebrity by all the people in the bar. It´s crazy, but this is what Brazilian people are like. I think about the UK and how we have a mental block about people from abroad, especially asylum seekers and refugees.

Would this happen if these Brazilians had come to Britain and hung out in a pub? My head is totally blown. And that´s just the start……………


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