Journalist Juliana Barbassa discusses problems in Brazil leading up to 2016 Olympics

By Miranda Donohue

(Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr)
(Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr)

Associated Press correspondent Juliana Barbassa gave a presentation to a sizeable crowd in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Monday night pertaining to her award-winning book, “Dancing with the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro on the Brink.” The presentation raised concerns regarding the government of Brazil’s promises and preparations leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Barbassa began with her background as a native of Brazil and moving to the U.S. when she was young. She went on to speak of the promise and hope former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, viewed as an “everyday man,” once cultivated in 2010. The citizens of Brazil “saw someone that looked like them,” Barbassa explained.
However, over time it was discovered that Lula was involved with multiple corruption scandals with the oil industry and as a result, his popularity plummeted. The rise and fall of Lula seemed to be an embodiment of the general trend surrounding the preparation of the Summer 2016 Olympics.
Barbassa focused on the security concerns present in Rio de Janeiro and highlighted controversy over the statistics of local law enforcement concerning the handling of the native population.

“Rio state police [has] killed 1330 people [this year],” Barbassa said.
During her stay in Brazil, working as a correspondent for the Associated Press, Barbassa said she helped uncover holes in the promises made by the Brazilian government.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, more than 20,000 families had been displaced in 2014 due to the proposed Housing Program. This program was endorsed and beloved by Rio Mayor Eduardo da Costa Paes.
While investigating the problems Brazil faced during the preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Barbassa focused on the level of pollution in the rivers of Brazil.
“Rio had an Olympic promise to clean up 80 percent of the pollution by 2016,” she said.

The Brazilian government later announced that it had failed to meet that deadline and goal.

Attendees of the lecture were given a chance to ask Barbassa some questions following her presentation.

“What do you think about crime’s effect in Rio during the Olympics?” Tess Smichenko, a sophomore sports management major asked.

“[For] the Olympics, Rio city and state are going to have 80,000 or more law enforcement members. It will probably be the safest place on the planet,” Barbassa responded.

The rest of the presentation divulged into a series of discussions regarding the allegations of corruption against leading Brazilian politicians.
The current Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, is facing multiple corruption charges. Barbassa spoke of how the preparation for the Olympic Games has brought to the surface many of the scandals that have remained hidden for decades.
Approximately 3.6 million people have participated in protests in the wake of the allegations against Rousseff according to Barbassa.
“The Olympics is being used as an urban renewal tool,” she said.
According to Barbassa, the highest number of people affected by the lack of reform and change in Brazil are the children. Many are not given the chance to attend school due to the relocation of their families.
Miranda Donahue can be reached at [email protected]