Frank, fluid dispatches from her hometown by an Associated Press correspondent relocated to Rio de Janeiro just as the city was supposed to be poised for greatness—or was it?
Born in Rio yet moved about while growing up due to job changes by her oil-executive father, Barbassa transferred from her AP job in San Francisco to Rio in 2010, just as the city won its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. The city was sparkling and enthusiastic in its planning for the 2014 World Cup, which it would also host. A new police chief had broken the backbone of the Red Command gang, and people could finally walk freely in some of the previously gang-held favelas, thanks to the new Pacifying Police Units. Furthermore, the economy was soaring due to newly discovered deposits of oil, spurring a growing middle class and a hunger for consumer goods. However, as a dogged reporter, Barbassa dug deeper, aided by her Brazilian roots and language, and found many troubling undercurrents in the fast-changing city of the newly elected president, Dilma Rousseff. The author saw the “cracking and shifting of structures that had long been in place.” To find a suitable apartment required connections and reams of paperwork; a “labyrinthine tax system” thwarted all transactions; opening a new business involved an average of 13 procedures and 119 days; an immense open-air dump, Gramacho, and no recycling policy contributed to the massive contamination of air, water, and land (on certain days, many of the beaches were unsafe for swimming); the galloping construction for Olympic venues and hotel rooms has meant a relocation of poor favelas; and homophobia and violence against women increased despite the vaunted convivencia of the city. In addition, Brazil’s shameful loss at the World Cup (accompanied by popular demonstrations) seemed to have taken the wind out of Rio’s sails.
Energetic, intrepid reporting by an insider.