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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
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Brazil 2015 Crime and Safety Report: Brasilia

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The State Department divides its roles and responsibilities in Brazil between four Consular Districts spread across the country (one for the Embassy and each of the three Consulates). This Crime and Safety Report focuses on U.S. Embassy Brasilia’s district, which is comprised of the states of Amazonas, Acre, Rondonia, Mato Grosso, Goias, Para, Tocantins, Amapa, Roraima, and the Federal District (Brasilia).

For more information regarding the security environment in other areas of Brazil, please reference the OSAC Crime and Safety Reports from the following Consular Districts: Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife.

Crime Rating: Critical

Crime Threats

Crime is a major concern in Brazil, especially in larger cities. Brazilian law enforcement and press sources report an increase in crime after several consecutive years of decreasing crime trends. While crime is a problem throughout the year, there have been noticeable increases in reported incidents during December and January, attributable to a number of factors including: Brazil’s liberal system of prison furloughs that allows for leave during the holidays, a higher percentage of police officers on annual leave during the Christmas season, and that citizens receive a “13th month” bonus that leaves them more disposable income. 

Foreigners are not immune to these acts of crime, and American citizens – both private and official – have been victimized. In fact, foreign visitors may be susceptible to targeting for certain crimes in part because visitors may be less likely to file a police report and/or return to testify at criminal proceedings should perpetrators be apprehended by police.

Crime was a concern during the World Cup; the majority of it was opportunistic street crime that took advantage of the influx of tourists. Thieves targeted people at Fan Fests, near stadiums, on buses, subways, and other areas where tourists congregated. Commonly stolen items included: wallets, purses, phones, cameras, luggage, jewelry, and match tickets. These types of thefts were usually non-violent, but the ones that did turn violent were often because the victim resisted. The tournament also saw more serious cases of crime to include sexual assault, armed robbery, and express kidnapping. Reports of crimes directed against private U.S. citizens were made to both American Citizen Services and OSAC personnel who supported this major event. 

Street crime is a problem, especially in the evenings and late at night. In Brasilia, robbery, assault, burglary, and theft are concerns for foreigners and Brazilians alike. Caution is required when travelling at night through more rural areas and satellite cities due to the significant potential for roadside robberies. 

Public transportation hubs, hotel sectors, and tourist areas are the locations with the highest crime rates. Many criminals use weapons when carrying out illicit activities that often are accompanied by gratuitous violence. 

Reports of cargo theft, from both overland shipments and from storage facilities, occur frequently. 

Violent crimes (murder, kidnapping, carjacking, armed assault, and burglary) occur with frequency. On January 1, a Lebanese diplomat was attacked by four criminals while he was reportedly in a vehicle with diplomatic plates en route to a local shopping mall when he was assaulted. He was hit on the head and suffered a broken nose and bruises.

Residential burglaries pose a constant threat and concern. According to the police much of this crime is carried out by mobile street gangs, originating from larger, distant cities and targets some of the residential areas of Brasilia. Other perpetrators are from the surrounding satellite cities and travel by metro, bus, or car looking for targets of opportunity. Vacant homes and apartments are targeted for burglary especially during December and January. Most residential properties, especially single family homes, utilize security alarm systems. These systems are monitored by local security companies who respond along with local police. Some neighborhoods employ static guard posts to monitor activity on the streets adjacent to their homes. Larger properties and commercial sites generally employ 24/7 security guard services. 

Organized crime in Brasilia does exist but is on a smaller scale compared to other cities, especially Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, both of which have major drug gangs that operate mainly in the favelas. In 2006, these gangs launched two dedicated waves of violence, centered in Sao Paulo, that were likened by many to a terrorist event; the President has called these gangs “terrorist organizations.” Further, the crime in Rio’s favelas is certainly a product of organized crime, mostly centered on narcotics trafficking. In Rio de Janeiro, a “favela pacification program” has begun systematically to bring favelas under government and police control. Over the past several years, the security services secured the symbolically criminally-hardened Complexo do Alemao favela and have occupied nearly 40 smaller favelas. There have been instances of large-scale gun battles in and around the favelas during some of the police operations.

Areas of Concern

Large markets and the areas in/around the hotel sector in Brasilia can be dangerous, especially at night. The satellite cities around Brasilia are considered unsafe at night and should be avoided during those hours.

Do not walk on beaches or in parks after dark. Assaults are common in these areas.

It is recommended that American visitors to the Tri-Border Area, to include Foz de Iguazu, remain especially vigilant and maintain a low profile.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions 

Road conditions outside of the main cities vary greatly. Brazil uses automatic photo-ticketing systems to discourage speeding, and tickets are mailed to the owner of the vehicle. Accidents are always a concern outside of major cities. 

The surface conditions of the roads in Brasilia are generally poor, with numerous pot holes, some of which, during the rainy season, can cause significant damage to a vehicle’s suspension system. Lighting, traffic signals, and road markings vary from good to poor. 

Manaus is isolated within the state of Amazonas with no major highway system linking it with the rest of Brazil. Within the city itself, roads are generally fair.

Public Transportation Conditions 

Avoid city buses and other public transportation. Many pass through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies. Only use legitimate, well-marked taxis. 

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Airports countrywide inaugurated supplemental security measures, in part to thwart criminal activity targeting aviation facilities. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Political Violence Rating: Medium

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no known indigenous terrorist groups operating in Brazil. Brazil is a non-aligned country with no significant enemies and is not targeted by any known radical groups. The Tri-Border Area where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay come together is home to a large Arab community. To date, no incidents directed against official or non-official Americans have occurred in this area. 

Terrorism Rating: Low

Civil Unrest 

Political violence in the form of protests occurs throughout Brazil, especially in major cities. These protests are held for various reasons: work conditions, wages, the environment. While protests are generally non-violent, some have resulted in property damage and minor injuries. Protests tend to increase in numbers and intensity during the visits of high-profile foreigners. 

There were numerous protests during 2014 in Brasilia related to a variety of grievances including salary disparity, poor health care, a substandard education system, and corruption. While the majority of these protests were peaceful, violence did occur in a few instances. 

Otherwise peaceful demonstrations have been infiltrated by the anarchist group Black Bloc, which is a loosely formulated movement that decries disparate issues ranging from institutional corruption to the poor quality of public services. They wear black clothing and black bandanas/masks and utilize social media to organize themselves. Anarchist elements infiltrated numerous otherwise peaceful protests during the summer and fall of 2013 and the summer of 2014 during the World Cup that resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and authorities.  

The World Cup spurred country-wide demonstrations, but turnouts were much less than nationwide protests that erupted in 2013 during the Confederations Cup. While most of these demonstrations were peaceful, some turned violent, resulting in property damage, injuries, and even deaths. Additionally, several reports surfaced of unruly fans breaching secure lines to enter stadiums, including during Chile’s match against Spain on June 18, when approximately 100 Chilean supporters gathered outside Maracaná Stadium and forced their way in. The group proceeded to the media center, smashed the glass door, and entered the stadium.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Most natural disasters are not a major concern in Brazil, although significant flooding does occur during the rainy season. Flooding, and associated mudslides, have recently become a serious problem in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Drug-related Crimes

The major cities of Brazil experience the effects of persons addicted to illicit drugs. This includes criminal activity (street assaults, robberies) the proceeds from which are used to support their addictions. Brazil is the number one consumer of crack cocaine in the world. As such, a large proportion of crimes have a nexus to narcotics.

Kidnapping Threat

A phenomenon called “quicknapping” is an ongoing criminal activity in which ATM users are kidnapped at gun point and taken to several ATMs to withdraw cash. While Brazilians are most often targeted, all foreigners are vulnerable to this crime. 

Police Response

Police officials frequently cited lack of resources, staff, and basic equipment and low morale as reasons for widely varying response times and unsolved crimes. Recently, however, many police units have displayed an increase in training, morale, and responsiveness, all of which is perhaps a side effect of the myriad security-focused programs introduced during the lead up to the World Cup.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Visitors should inform the nearest embassy or consulate in the event they encounter problems while traveling, including detainment or arrest by the police, in Brazil. 

Crime Victim Assistance
 

Brasilia Emergency Services

Telephone

Rio Branco Battalion/Federal District

(61) 3248-1335/1368 (24HR)

Police Precinct/Lago Sul

(61) 3364-3626 (24HR)

Police Precinct/Asa Sul

(61) 3245-1567 (24HR)

Police Precinct/Asa Norte

(61) 3273-0101/0335 (24HR)

Civil Police

199 or (61) 3363-1358

Fire Department

190 or 193

Ambulance

192


Manaus Emergency Services

Telephone

Police

190

Fire Department

193

Ambulance

192

Civil Police

197 or (92) 3612-3122


Medical Emergencies

For private, ground-ambulance service in Brasilia, call- Vida Ambulance (61) 3248-3030. 

Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics

The following local hospitals have been identified by post as suitable for use by visitors to Brasilia: 
Hospital Santa Lucia: W3 Sul 716, Conjunto C in the Asa Sul Section. Tel: (61) 3445-0000. 
Hospital Brasilia: Shis QI 15, TR. 5, Lote G. Tel: (61) 3248-9000. 
Hospital de Base (Trauma Care): SMHS 101, Bloco A, in the Asa Sul Section. Tel: (61) 3325-4080/5050. 

For Manaus:
Hospital Adventista De Manaus – Dist. Industrial: Av. Governador Danilo Areosa, 139 – Distrito Industrial, Manaus - AM, 69075-351. Tel: (92) 2123-1311.
Hospital Joao Lucio – Bario S. Jose: Alameda Cosme Ferreira, 3937 – Bario S. Jose, Manaus - AM, 69083-000. Tel: (92) 3249-9050/3249-9051.
Hospital Pronto Socorro Municipal 28 Agosto – Adrianopolis: Av. Mario  Ypyranga, 1581 - Adrianolopis, Manaus - AM, 69057-002. Tel: (92) 3643-7143.

Recommended Air Ambulance Services

The Embassy can assist visitors with further information about obtaining services available.

Recommended Insurance Posture

For air medical evacuation services, the Embassy recommends visitors purchase private air medical evacuation insurance before traveling to Brazil. 

CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance 

For vaccine and health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/brazil?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Scams 

There are a variety of scams used by the criminals to rob victims that include: 

An unknown individual calls to say that a known person, possibly a family member, has been kidnapped and unless you pay a ransom immediately the person will be harmed. The ransom is paid, and it then becomes clear that the kidnapping never occurred.

A similar scam is where an unknown individual calls and states an employee or family member has been in an accident and needs immediate medical attention. The individual states that payment must be provided in order for the injured individual to be treated. This scam is often targeted at household staff who react without verifying with their employer.

Scams involving credit cards are common as well. Travelers using personal ATM or credit cards sometimes receive billing statements with unauthorized charges or discover that their cards were cloned or duplicated.

Do not accept drinks from strangers and always watch your drink. Scopolamine, or a similar drug, may be added to your drink. People have woken up robbed of their valuables or sexually assaulted after accepting a drink from a stranger.

Be careful of cash transactions on the street. A hurried transaction for merchandise often leaves the customer with shoddy/counterfeit goods or with counterfeit money.

Situational Awareness Best Practices 

Visitors to Brazil should practice common sense preventive security techniques, just as they would in any large city. Traveling in groups appears to have a positive effect on deterring criminals. Do not carry or wear valuable items that will attract attention. If you need to wear expensive jewelry or carry a camera, conceal it until you arrive at your destination. Be aware of the street environment and avoid contact with those who may be looking for potential victims. If you feel unsafe, seek a safer location. Go into a store, bank or simply cross the street. Do not resist any robbery attempt. While this is a personal decision, statistics show that resistance can lead to injury or death. Be alert at open markets or crowded areas. Do not answer your hotel room door until you positively confirm who is on the other side. Look out the peephole or call the front desk to confirm the visitor. Many residents and visitors find that renting or purchasing a cellular phone is very useful. Cellular phones are widely available, inexpensive, and generally highly reliable, especially in the major cities.

Criminals are determined and sophisticated, requiring visitors to be alert to their surroundings. Visitors can reduce their risk of becoming a victim of crime by varying routes and times of travel, and ensuring residences are sufficiently protected. Family members and household help should not allow anyone to enter the residential grounds without identification and prearranged appointments. Suspicious persons or activities in the neighborhood should be reported to the police immediately. 

The Regional Security Officer recommends that residences provide solid-core entry doors with quality deadbolts, security grilles on all windows, adequate front/rear security lighting, and a monitored alarm system.

In Brasilia, visitors should be alert to their surroundings, especially at large markets. 

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information 

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation 

U.S. American Embassy Brasilia
Av. Das Nacoes Sul, Quadra 801, Lote 3. 

Embassy Contact Numbers

The Embassy phone number is (011-55) 61-3312-7000.
Emergencies and calls after business hours may be directed to Marine Security Guard at +55 (61) 3312-7400. 
Regional Security Office: extension 7390
American Citizen Service Section: extension 7063 or 7471. 
Foreign Commercial Officer: extension 7403. 
Fax: +55 (61) 3322-4224.
Website: www.embaixadaamericana.org.br or http://brazil.usembassy.gov/

Nearby Posts

Consulate Rio de Janeiro: http://riodejaneiro.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Recife: http://recife.usconsulate.gov/
Consulate Sao Paulo: http://saopaulo.usconsulate.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. companies are encouraged to contact the RSO in Brasilia for specific inquiries concerning the local security situation. Information is also readily available from the RSO offices in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, the American Chamber of Commerce, and from the active OSAC Country Councils operating in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. 

For additional, updated information, please contact the Consular Section of the American Embassy in Brasilia or consult the websites of the Consular Bureau of the Department of State (www.travel.state.gov).

OSAC Country Council Information

Brasilia does not have an OSAC Country Council. OSAC Country Councils in Brazil are located in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Please review their reports for additional details. To reach OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team, please email OSACWHA@state.gov.
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