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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 12/ 2/2010

Story pick: The rough side of Rio

By Steve Hendrix

Rio de Janeiro is getting prettied up for its star turn as host of the 2016 Olympics and inevitably that's going to mean a little rough stuff between police and the bad guys in the lawless slums ringing the city. Well, for a superb foretaste of that drama, don't miss this perfectly written account of a recent police raid by Brett Forrest in the December Atlantic.

Part detail-perfect short story, part action-movie scenario, part socio-economic white paper, Forrest's piece brings alive a rich cast of characters, events and conditions during a few hours in one of Rio's hillside favelas, where the cops don't go except in armored vehicles. Don't believe me? Read this lede:

It is summer in Rio de Janeiro, and the snitch wears a ski mask. Two cops have rousted him from the Hotel Carioca, in the Centro district, and he lights a cigarette as he limps toward the police station, smoking through the mask’s mouth hole. Rodrigo Oliveira watches from the window of his second-floor office. “We shot this guy in the leg last week,” he says. “Now he works for us.”

I won't give away the plot (and there is one), but Forrest's wonderful writing is packed with description like this:

Following Oliveira, they slip through an alleyway and vanish into the favela. Shacks made of slag, tin, wood, and mud cover the hilly terrain. Rebar and drainage pipes poke from slanting concrete walls. The humidity intensifies the stench of excrement. Securing jagged corners and blind alleys, the cops move quickly, their radios chirping like birds.

They reach a hilltop strewn with garbage, and Oliveira takes a breather, sweat dripping off his nose. An old woman folds laundry on her porch. Children and young men walk by, heedless of the police. Graffiti on a nearby wall reads I DON'T KNOW. I DIDN'T SEE. I'M NOT A SNITCH. LET ME GO.


Read it. These could well be the best 1,200 words of your day.

By Steve Hendrix  | December 2, 2010; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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Comments

Wow... this was great. Excellent recommendation. Thank you!

Posted by: ftpants | December 2, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

great story. thanks for the tip, steve.

it captures the energy and conflicts so important to brazillian society as the country develops into a world power. as big money rolls in from commodities and international spec'ing, the war has moved from the city of god to the outskirts.

IMO, the social effects of development of the bric nations is the story of the next 10 years, and forrest is spot on. would love to see some of his work out of china or russia.

links? thanks.

Posted by: gemdebt | December 3, 2010 4:34 AM | Report abuse

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