Brazil, venue for the FIFA Copa 2014 and 2016 Olympics. However, after the attempted kidnapping of Formula 1 driver Jensen Button and the horrific violent attack against the Sauber team's engineers, what right does this country have to host these major events? Including Formula 1?
Brazil, without any shred of doubt, has taken huge strides in terms of social and economic progress over the last ten years, due to the intelligent policies of President Lula, policies which seem certain to continue under President-elect Dilma. Those of us who have been following Brazil closely for the last three decades rejoice in the tremendous strides which have been made. However, there is one area in which much more needs to be done. Containing violence.
Before we start to point fingers, let us put things in context. Crime and Brazil are two synonyms and have been for the last thirty years. However, the first stone is cast not by foreigners, but by Brazilians themselves. Crime is front page news in Brazil, crime is the subject of countless TV channels, Brazil does not hide its crime, it flaunts it.
And many of us who have been to Brazil, in my case, several times, have probably never seen any crime at all. However, there is a very sinister and well-organized crime syndicate operating in Brazil and that is called kidnapping. And what happened this Saturday with Jensen Button, the British Formula 1 driver, and later on with the Sauber engineering team?
Those who try to play this down and claim it was "nothing more than a few favela occupants walking their dogs" are doing Brazil a disservice. The fact of the matter is that the B class Mercedes in which Jensen Button was travelling, with his father John, his physio Mike Collier and his business manager Richard Goddard, was attacked by six men on Saturday night as it travelled from the Interlagos racing circuit to their hotel in Morumbi, São Paulo.
Jensen Button declared to the media "We saw that all six men were armed. My driver was a legend. It was very frightening".
Brazil's Military Police were made aware of the incident through Sunday morning's Press.
The same night, three Sauber engineers were attacked by five robbers when they left Interlagos. According to the Swiss team, one of the robbers was armed. The gang escaped with personal items and a cellular phone.
True, violence happens everywhere. But where else has there been a kidnapping attempt against a world-class athlete and an act of violence against a sports team going about its business? Only in Angola, where the Togolese football team was the victim of a machine-gun attack earlier this year.
While Brazilians will be defensive about what happened, let it be crystal clear that such cowboy antics belong to the realm of movies. Athletes and soccer players involved in the major tournaments FIFA 2014 and Rio 2016 Olympics may very well wonder what is to happen to them if a gang of armed kidnappers snatches them from their hotel, or on the way to their sports venue.
Brazil has taken huge strides in social and economic development but in terms of crime control, there remains much more to be done. This remains a prerogative for Brazil's government to address, namely paying the police a decent wage for a start and clamping down on the criminal gangs and their access to weapons.
The fact that I am writing this piece does not mean that I am criticising Brazil. The last person to threaten the author of this article was not Brazilian, but British, and was introduced into the finer arts of Krav Maga, had his face smashed into a lamp post, his knee snapped, his throat kicked in, his nose broken and his genitals crushed. Yes, it felt great. And if anyone attacked me in Brazil, the outcome would be the same, or worse.
Basically, it is time for zero tolerance for this scourge in Brazilian society. Otherwise, it is perfectly simple: until Brazil addresses this nonsense, nobody has the obligation to subject him/herself to the inhospitable reality in Brazil.
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