Reclaiming Rio

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The hillside shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro have long stood as testimony to issues the city’s leaders fail to address: the absence of decent housing for an underclass that migrated to the city generations ago; electricity and water that reach residents helter-skelter, with illegal hookups the norm. The law has long been in the hands of drug dealers, who bribe police to stay away and, sometimes, to take an active part in their illegal trade. For Cariocas, as residents of the city are known, the favelas are a no-man’s land, where non-residents visit and work only with the blessings of local drug lords.

That city-within-a-city is cracking open now, as the military and an elite special forces unit of the Rio police move in to wrest control of the favelas ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. In Vidigal, they discovered a secret cemetery with the charred bodies of people who had run afoul of drug dealers. In Laboriaux, the agents found a stash of heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft rounds and assault rifles. Perhaps most emblematic of the nexus the government is trying to break was the discovery last week of five suspected traffickers fleeing Rocinha ahead of the raids. Their escorts? Three current and two former police officers.

In an interview following his arrest last week, Rocinha’s notorious drug kingpin, Antonio Bonfim Lopes, also known as Nem, said half the estimated $56 million a year he earned from selling drugs went to bribe police officers.

Sweep to Rio security forces take back major slum 

 

Jerry Sandusky after his arrest. / REUTERS
The crisis at Penn State University, following the failure of officials there to notify police after Jerry Sandusky was seen allegedly raping a boy in the showers, could be described as: “school covers up for an insider, allowing the alleged abuse to continue.”

Given that, District Court Judge Leslie Dutchcot’s failure to  recuse herself from hearing the case against Sandusky is prompting an utterly predictable firestorm. According to her law firm’s website, the judge had volunteered at Sandusky’s charity, The Second Mile, and donated money to it.

When Sandusky came before her, Judge Dutchcot appeared to go easy: The judge set bail at a fifth of what the prosecution had requested, and turned down the prosecutor’s request to have Sandusky wear a monitoring device. The local newspaper, The Patriot-News, reported today that Judge Dutchcot only volunteered at The Second Mile a few times in 2008 and 2009, when Sandusky was no longer involved with the charity.

Fortunately, she will not preside over Sandusky’s actual trial, as that will fall to a county judge under Pennsylvania law.

On Monday, Sandusky admitted that he showered with young boys and “horsed around” with them, but insisted that he did so without any sexual intent, saying, “I am not a pedophile.”

Meanwhile, the new president of Penn State, Rodney Erickson, has said that he expects victims will sue the university, and that Penn State will “do the right thing for all the victims.”

And an excellent report in The Patriot-News examines why it took so long for the state to charge Sandusky. Among its discoveries: until February 2010, only one state trooper was assigned to investigate the case, and it was not until two and a half years after the investigation began that Sandusky’s home was searched.

Sweep to Judge had no contact with Sandusky

 

Protestors in the southern city of Taiz. / REUTERS
A new Gallup survey of Yemen, where the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh is battling protestors demanding his ouster, shows that people are losing hope that their lives will improve, and that the unrest is worsening the already precarious lives of many citizens. More than four in ten Yemenis told pollsters that they did not have enough money to buy food for their families at some point in the last year, while 62 percent said they found it “difficult” or “very difficult” to get by. A bare three percent of people polled said they expected the country’s economic outlook to improve.

A UN Children’s Fund representative, speaking last month, said the country was “on the verge of a true humanitarian disaster.”

An earlier Gallup survey had shown that perceptions of deep-rooted government corruption were a driving force behind the protests. Seventy percent or more of Yemenis have consistently told pollsters over the last four years that government corruption was rampant.

Sweep to Yemenis hopeless about economy as revolt continues

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo

Diana Jean Schemo is co-founding executive editor of 100Reporters and an award-winning former foreign, national and cultural correspondent for The New York Times and the Baltimore Sun.

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