Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 October 2020
The metaphor of the cidade partida (fragmented or broken city), which has been used to characterize Rio de Janeiro's darker aspect—its stark inequality, its class conflicts and violence—is not new but has gained, in the last couple of decades, widespread circulation. Since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985, when formal democratic practices such as free speech and open elec–tions were reestablished, it has become more obvious than ever that equal citizenship rights for all, de facto rather than on paper, are still an elusive ideal in Rio and in Brazil as a whole (as in many other places). The neoliberal economic policies of recent decades, with curtailed social spending and privatization of state-owned property, have increased poverty in Rio significantly. The arrival of the large-scale commercialization of cocaine since the late 1970s has deepened urban divisions and intensified violence. The retail end of the drug business often takes place in poor neighborhoods, or favelas. But the violence that prevails in Rio is not limited to warring drug factions or their conflicts with the police. It also inheres in unemployment and inadequate education and health care for the poor, as well as in severely flawed security, judiciary, and penal systems. All in all, the urban experience is fraught with violence and the fear of violence for all residents—though here too there is inequality, since this violence and fear affect some segments of the population far more than others.