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Editorial: Rio de Janeiro and Its Image Issues

Editorial, by Stone Korshak

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It has long been said that “Brazil is a country of the future… and always will be.” However Rio de Janeiro has a much bigger image problem these days, and I’m not sure how it can turn it around.

Stone Korshak, Editor and Publisher of The Rio Times.

Stone Korshak, Editor and Publisher of The Rio Times.

For decades the image of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro evokes visions of beautiful weather, beaches, people and music. Unfortunately that always came with a sense of violence, crime, corruption and a third world/developing economy.

Of course most countries and large cities have their good and bad points, and contradictions, so many took Rio’s reputation with a grain of salt. Certainly lots of people choose to see the net positives of the Cidade Maravilhosa – myself included.

Then in the last eight years the star of Brazil rose and the dazzle of Rio brightened… and now it has all … fizzled. Mind-boggling political corruption and legal shenanigans, crippling economic recession and a scary increase in crime is the current picture.

In terms of what impacts most foreigners, the international image of Rio is one of no jobs or business opportunity (for those looking for more than a vacation), and a place of unnecessary risk of street crime, after too long a flight to pay too much money for too little in accommodation and food.

Unfortunately, for those that live here, the image is consistent with the reality. The economic tailspin has been happening since last year but now after the Olympics, there is no illusion of bright points. Now as the UPP withdrawals for lack of funding, street crime is rampant and turf wars rage in the favelas.

The image of Rio de Janeiro is a problem, and until it changes it is going to be a hard-sell to get large numbers of foreigners back. But then again maybe it is about expectations, and going back to the way Rio was thought of ten years ago, which was similar to the wild west.

The problem is that ten years ago a Caipirinha or Caipivodka cost maybe R$5-8, now they seem to run around R$20-25. Rental rates and property prices are falling but not enough yet, so far it has been ten percent, but my sense is it might fall thirty percent.

Time will tell, and the return of multinational oil interests to the new business-friendly government, and perhaps a settling down of the favela gang leadership will help keep the streets safer for tourism.

At the time of writing, the only crime I have personally been a victim of is some ten-year-olds pickpocketing my cell phone in 2009 late night in Lapa. Knock on wood.

One of my favorite views of Rio de Janeiro, photo by Alexandre Macieira/Riotur.

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