In Brazil, the violence and misery of Belford Roxo, an evangelical and Bolsonist stronghold

In Brazil, the violence and misery of Belford Roxo, an evangelical and Bolsonist stronghold

In Brazil, the violence and misery of Belford Roxo, an evangelical and Bolsonist stronghold

Alessandro Flor de Souzas, known as “Biru”, sees the visitor arriving from afar. Quickly, he opens the iron door of his house, lets him in and immediately closes the door. On this morning in early August the weather is beautiful and there are people on the street. But the Parque Fluminense neighborhood in Belford Roxo, a suburb north of Rio de Janeiro, is surrounded by favelas. For this 40-year-old man, owner of a small local bar, it’s not about letting his guard down: “Here, at any time, day or night, you can get shot!” “

Sheltered behind his gate, “Biru” begins to whisper. “The walls have ears.” Young people on motorcycles, drug dealers, guns clearly visible on their belts, pass regularly through his alley. As for them, the drinker is “for the death penalty”. If he had the means, he would buy a gun and take over the law. “An unarmed people is at the mercy of thieves, like gazelles facing a lion. If I had had a gun, I would have killed at least four! “

An absolute non-place

Logically, “Biru” voted in 2018 for the firearms champion candidate, Jair Bolsonaro. In these parts, he is far from the only one. In the so-called “Baixada Fluminense” region, a gigantic northern suburb of Rio, made up of thirteen municipalities, and where nearly 4 million inhabitants (or a quarter of the metropolis) live, the former far-right captain has achieved some of his best national scores: over 68% of the votes for Belford Roxo (515,000 souls). A performance that he intends to repeat during the presidential elections on October 2 that will oppose him to Lula, the leader of the Brazilian left.

Biru, a 40-year-old merchant, in front of his café in Parque Fluminense, in Belford Roxo (Brazil), 2 August 2022.
A street in the community of Parque dos Ferreiras, in Belford Roxo (Brazil), on August 3, 2022.

Seen from here, forty kilometers from the beaches of Copacabana or Ipanema, the charm of the “wonderful city” seems far away. Belford Roxo, wedged between jade peaks and a polluted bay, is an urban chaos. An absolute non-place, without center or periphery, a shapeless mosaic of favelas, concrete hovels and desolate lands, where banana trees and wild herbs grow. The streets are full of potholes everywhere and the sidewalks littered with rubbish. It is the paradise of Vira Latasthese street dogs “garbage collectors”, who patrol along with the heat of the oven.

Uncontrolled urbanization

It is difficult to imagine that these places, named in homage to a nineteenth-century engineerAnd century, Raimundo Teixeira Belfort Roxo, they were once rural. land of the cultivation of sugar cane and oranges, the Baixada has suffered the pangs of uncontrolled urbanization. In the 1950s, the government decided to industrialize Rio, which was still the capital. Foreign companies are encouraged to settle in the northern suburbs. In Belford Roxo, the Germans of the Bayer company will open a large agrochemical park.

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