is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in southeastern
Brazil. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Brazil country page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Brazil
at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to crime.
Do not travel to any areas within 150 km/100 miles of Brazil’s land borders
with Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and
Paraguay due to crime. (Note: This does not apply to the Foz do Iguacu National
Park or Pantanal National Park.) Do not travel to informal housing developments
(commonly referred to in Brazil as favelas, vilas, comunidades,
and/or conglomerados) at any time of day due to crime. Review OSAC’s
report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
& Safety Situation
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Rio de Janeiro as being
a CRITICAL-threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Violent crimes
such as murder, armed robbery, carjacking, assault, and kidnapping are a
frequent occurrence. In Zona Sul, opportunistic street crime such as
pickpocketing, purse snatching, and smash-and-grab theft from vehicles and
storefronts is a constant concern. These acts take place in all areas of the
city at any time throughout the year. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should
visitors of all nationalities, including U.S. citizens, have been victims. Criminals
most often target their victims due to perceived wealth and lack of awareness. There is no indication that criminals target U.S. citizens
or U.S. government employees due to their nationality. Most criminals commit crimes while armed and will not
hesitate to use violence if they encounter resistance. In most incidents,
compliant victims were unharmed.
Do not accept drinks from strangers and always watch your drink.
Criminals may add scopolamine or a similar drug to your drink. People have
woken up robbed of their valuables or sexually assaulted after accepting such a
drink. Review OSAC’s reports, Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, and Scopolamine Incidents on
the Rise in Colombia.
All of Rio’s neighborhoods are subject to criminal activity. Among
them are ungoverned urban areas known as favelas
(sometimes called communidades),
which are often visually distinct from the most affluent neighborhoods. Drug
gangs and militia groups dominate these areas; armed confrontations between
traffickers and police occur frequently.
Parks, beaches, and other recreational areas have experienced
violent crimes, mostly at night, to include assault, theft, and sexual assault.
Depart from these public areas before sundown. Although assaults are also
common during the day, higher rates of crime occur after dark.
are noticeable increases in reported crime from December through February, likely
attributable to the increased number of visitors during the summer and the
worldwide popularity of New Year’s and Carnival festivities. In addition to the
height of tourist season, a higher percentage of Brazilians take vacations
during the holiday seasons. This results in fewer police officers available to
patrol due to labor shortages, and more homes and apartments left vacant while
owners and tenants travel, creating a target-rich environment for burglars. Review
OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
drug gangs and militias control organized crime in Rio de Janeiro, operating
mainly in the favelas and in the country’s prison system. The
Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay is a regional hub for
the transit of illicit goods, including narcotics and firearms. To date, no
incidents directed against U.S. citizens have occurred in this area. Visitors
to the area, to include Foz de Iguaçu, should remain especially vigilant and
maintain a low profile.
The use of credit cards is extremely common in
Rio. Most locals in Brazil do not carry cash. Cloning devices and radio
frequency interception (RFI) of credit cards does occur in Rio, like any other
major city. There are reports of beach vendors adding additional zeroes to
legitimate charges of those unfamiliar with the exchange rate. The World Bank reports that Brazil has one
of the highest concentrations of ATMs worldwide. Local cybercriminals target
ATMs to obtain credit card and banking information, as well as portable
point-of-sale systems to obtain the information stored in the magnetic strip of
credit cards. Because this scheme requires access to payment hardware, insider
access is usually involved. Cybersecurity
companies often note that, while still vulnerable, chip-and-PIN cards are more
secure and harder to clone than magnetic swipe cards. Be aware of the increased
risk to credit and debit card information, and carefully monitor accounts for
suspicious activity. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
Brazil is one of Latin America’s leading digital nations. Over 50%
of Brazilians now are active internet users, and Brazilian financial
institutions were early adopters of online services. Brazil
remains among the most pervasive cybercrime environments worldwide. Brazilian
cybercriminals are sophisticated and employ malware to steal billions of
dollars annually, despite government efforts to stop malicious online activity.
Hacktivists have defaced government
websites and taken them offline in recent years. The domestic
banking sector has historically been the primary target of these operations,
and anecdotal information suggests insider access. Cybercrime in Brazil also
affects daily Internet users, private-sector organizations, and short-term
travelers. Scams involving credit cards are common. Travelers using personal
ATM or credit cards sometimes discover that criminals had cloned or duplicated their
cards without their knowledge. Maintain awareness of popular
schemes to avoid becoming a cybercrime victim.
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
conditions in Rio de Janeiro are similar to those found in large U.S. cities.
Drivers in Rio de Janeiro should expect traffic congestion and delays at any
time. Due to unique topography (mountain ranges surround the southern part of
the city), tunnels cause multiple vehicular chokepoints throughout the city.
Many drivers do not receive sufficient training, proper licensure, or insurance,
which leads to stressful driving conditions at any given time.
major roadways run through or next to favelas, increasing the potential for
violent crime to spill out onto the roadways, causing potentially significant
traffic delays. Always drive defensively. Limit any overland travel beyond city
limits to daylight hours. Road conditions outside of the main cities vary
greatly. While traveling through rural areas, pay close attention to potholes
and speed bumps. Lighting, traffic signals, and road markings vary from good to
poor. Using tinted windows, rolling windows up, locking
doors, and keeping valuables out of sight are the best recommendations against
possible random criminal activity.
U.S. companies use armored passenger vehicles to transport visiting senior
executives who they deem to be targets due to their high profile or high-value
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
de Janeiro has a municipal bus system, taxis, and an underground railway
system. While none is off limits to U.S. government employees, ride with
caution to reduce the possibility of being a victim of crime, especially in the
northern zone of the city.
buses are plentiful and generally keep to a regular schedule, avoid them
whenever possible. Protests and demonstrations targeting the bus and mass
transit systems often leave passengers vulnerable to violence; criminals have
robbed buses or set them on fire while in transit.
metro system is relatively efficient and keeps a regular schedule. However, it
is often overcrowded, and there have been reports of citizens suffering loss of
personal items and of individuals touching female riders inappropriately. The
metro system offers and encourages using women-only rail cars during morning
and evening rush hours on most operating lines.
taxis are plentiful, there are still high rates of illegal/pirate taxis looking
for potential targets of opportunity. Only use legitimate,
well-marked taxis, which are yellow with a blue stripe and possess state-issued
red livery license plates in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Local
residents use informal minibuses to move from neighborhood to neighborhood in
Rio, but visitors should avoid them; these vehicles have had numerous criminal
issues, and are not regulated. Use taxis and private vehicles when moving
within the city. Even while driving, motorists are vulnerable to armed bandits
on motorcycles who prey on potential victims waiting at traffic lights or in
traffic. Private car services (e.g. Uber) also provide a relatively safe option
for travelers. Review OSAC’s report, Safety
and Security in the Share Economy.
Airports countrywide have
inaugurated supplemental security measures, in part to thwart criminal activity
targeting aviation facilities. Review
OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public
Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Rio de Janeiro as being
a LOW-threat location for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.There are no known indigenous terrorist
groups operating in Brazil. Brazil is a
non-aligned country with no significant enemies, and is not a target of any known
Though there are no known indigenous terrorist groups operating in
Brazil, authorities arrested individuals who identified themselves as terrorist
members or sympathizers in 2016 prior to and during the Olympic Games. Also
during the Olympics, eco-terrorists planted a pressure cooker bomb at a major
bus terminal in Brasília. Both incidents may have used the high profile of the Olympic
Games to make their points, but were nevertheless the country’s first
terrorism-related incidents in recent history. Concerns exist that individuals
among the region’s extremist community have been engaged in facilitating
transfers of money and people for terrorist organizations.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Rio de Janeiro as being
a MEDIUM-threat location for
political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Political violence in the form of protests occurs throughout Brazil, especially
in major cities. These protests occur for various reasons, from poor work
conditions and wages to public corruption or social inclusion. While protests
are generally non-violent, some have escalated. In Rio de Janeiro, several
protests over the past year have turned violent, resulting in property damage
and minor injuries. Protests tend to increase in numbers and intensity during
periods of political transition, the visits of high-profile foreigners, and
major events. Usually, police control these demonstrations well, and marches proceed
under local police escort. Avoid protests, as hostile protestors have
infiltrated crowds for the purpose of confronting the police. Additionally,
large gatherings are enticing targets for thieves and pickpockets. Review
OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
conditions in Rio de Janeiro, coupled with a large-scale investigation into
public corruption, have contributed to civil unrest, protests, and strikes as
Brazil works to recover from its longest and deepest recession since the 1930s.
In 2019, official unemployment reached 11.9%. This annual average rate is lower
than 2018 (12.3%) and the lowest since 2016 (11.5%). The unemployment rate has
dropped for two consecutive years.
boasts a wide variety of ethnicities. Reports of violence within the state of
Rio de Janeiro aimed at traditionally Afro-Brazilian religious practices remain
Brazilians regard U.S. nationals in a positive manner, and are friendly to
natural disasters are not a major concern in Brazil, although significant
flooding does occur during the rainy season. Flooding and associated mudslides are
serious concerns in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
bodies of water within the city of Rio de Janeiro are extremely polluted.
Tourist areas such as Lagoa, Ipanema, and Copacabana beaches, and Guanabara Bay
all show extreme contamination.
of Brazil’s beaches have very dangerous riptides. Even if the water looks safe,
ocean currents and waves are unpredictable, even in popular beaches that
tourists frequent. Always observe posted warnings and never swim while under
the influence of alcohol. Follow local authorities’ guidance and refrain from
swimming alone in areas marked with red warning signs or at beaches where there
are no municipal lifeguards or first responder services.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
The Brazilian army is responsible
for defending critical cyber infrastructure. Brazil’s Computer Emergency
Response Team monitors and addresses general cyber security
incidents. Given Brazil’s highly networked economy and the fact that
authorities still are developing cyber doctrine and capabilities, analysts note
continued critical infrastructure risks.
Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Issues
The risk of economic espionage is not particularly high in Brazil,
but other intellectual property rights (IPR) issues continue to challenge U.S.
companies. Concerns also persist with respect to Brazil’s inadequate
protection against unfair commercial use of undisclosed test and other data
generated to obtain marketing approval for pharmaceutical products.
Brazil remained on the U.S. Trade
Representative’s Special 301 Watch List in 2019 due to high levels of
counterfeiting and piracy, including online piracy. Illicit goods enter
Brazil over its extensive land and sea borders, with the tri-border area with
Paraguay and Argentina a particular concern. Over the past year, Rio de Janeiro
police have made significant efforts to combat sales of counterfeit and pirated
goods at physical markets, with offenders more frequently referred for
prosecution. Avoid street vendors selling knock-off
designer products; by buying them you may face a large fine.
of cargo theft, both from overland shipments originating at ports of entry and
from storage facilities, occur frequently. Brazil’s rate of cargo theft is
among the highest in the region, and of particular concern in Rio de Janeiro.
Criminals target all commercial goods, although shipments of petroleum,
pharmaceuticals, and mobile electronics are especially lucrative. Review
OSAC’s Report, In-Transit
Cargo Theft in Brazil.
Personal Identity Concerns
law prohibits racial discrimination, specifically the denial of public or
private facilities, employment, or housing, to anyone based on race. It also
prohibits the incitement of racial discrimination or prejudice and the
dissemination of racially offensive symbols and epithets and stipulates prison
terms for such acts. The 2010 census reported that, for the first time, more
than 50% of the population identified themselves as belonging to categories
other than white. Despite laws and a high representation within the general
population, darker-skinned citizens, particularly Afro-Brazilians, frequently
encounter discrimination and are underrepresented in national government
Brazil’s federal law now prohibits
discrimination based on sexual orientation. Enforcement, however, is weak, and
violence against LGBTI+ persons still occurs regularly, particularly against
the transgender community. According to the 2019 Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices, violence against LGBTI
individuals remains a serious concern nationwide. There were 141 killings of
LGBTI individuals in the first 135 days of 2019. Transgender individuals were
particularly at risk; there were 163 killings of transgender persons nationwide
in 2018, and police arrested suspects in only 9% of the cases. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.
The law also prohibits
discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in
employment, transportation, education, and access to health care; the federal
government generally enforces these standards. It is common for the elderly,
pregnant women, and disabled individuals to receive priority treatment at
public and private establishments. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for travelers with disabilities.
drug-related crimes involve the illicit drug trade and those persons addicted
to illicit drugs. Street assaults, robberies, burglaries, and other criminal
activity generate proceeds to support their addictions. Brazil is the number
two consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the United States. Brazil
is the world’s largest consumer of crack cocaine.
kidnappings for ransom in Rio are less common than other violent crimes, these
incidents do occur. One tactic of organized gangs is to target individuals
observed withdrawing money from ATMs or exiting banks after making a withdrawal.
These gangs frequently operate in teams.
version of this is express kidnapping, an ongoing criminal activity in which kidnappers
take ATM users at gunpoint and take them to several ATMs to withdraw cash.
While Brazilians are the most frequent targets, all foreigners are vulnerable
to this crime. Using ATMs located in secure locations such as shopping malls or
major hotels reduce the chances of criminal targeting. Review
OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
Brazilian customs authorities may
enforce strict regulations concerning temporarily importing or exporting items
such as firearms, antiquities, mineral samples, tropical plants, wildlife,
medications, and business and communication equipment. Read the State
Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you
cannot take into or out of other countries.
emergency line is 197
Police, 194 for Federal
Police, and 190 for Military
response varies greatly. Police officials frequently cite a lack of resources,
staffing shortages, lack of basic equipment, and low morale as reasons for
widely varying response times and unsolved crime. Police labor unions advocate
and occasionally organize strikes that result in absences of police personnel
in key areas.
shootings resulted in over 1,800 civilian deaths in the state of Rio de Janeiro
over the past year (highest rates since 1991).
enforcement entities continue to look for creative policing strategies to
overcome financial and infrastructure challenges to crime prevention, such as
community policing, officers on motorcycles, and extensive implementation of
surveillance cameras. Recent implementation of “Operation Presence” to increase
the overt law enforcement presence in certain heavily populated areas of the
city has yielded some positive results. This increase in overt policing has
succeeded due to substantial funding by the local Brazilian private sector and
has expanded to more Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods.
Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro have their own formations, rules,
and uniforms, and are responsible for maintaining public order across the
state. Polícia Militar is the
country’s military police and is not associated with the Brazilian Armed
Forces; they are the Brazilian equivalent of U.S. uniformed state police
officers. Deployed solely to respond to or act as a deterrent against the
commission of crime, these units do not conduct criminal investigations.
The Civil Police
(Polícia Civil) acts as the state bureau of
investigation. Each state has its own Civil Police Department to undertake
detective work, forensics, prosecutions, and internal investigation,
while the Military Police performs preventive police duties.
The Federal Police (Polícia Federal or DPF) are responsible
for crimes against federal institutions, to include international drug
trafficking, terrorism, cyber-crime, organized crime, public corruption,
white-collar crime, money laundering, immigration, border control, airport
security, and maritime policing. DPF is subordinate to the federal Justice
medical emergency line is 192.
For fire emergencies or sea rescue, call 193.
Medical care is adequate at
private clinics, where you need to pay cash in advance for medical care. Public
hospitals provide a lower standard of care and are often overcrowded and
understaffed, but they generally do not require pre-payment and are experienced
at dealing with medical emergencies, including trauma injuries. Find
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the Consulate’s Medical
Bring prescription medicine
sufficient for the length of your stay, be aware that Brazil's humid climate
may affect some medicines. Some prescription medicines (mainly generic)
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage
Brazil is experiencing
an ongoing threat of mosquito borne illnesses, and has indicated that it will
continue to work toward mitigating the threat in 2020. For information on mosquito
mitigation, review OSAC’s report, What’s Bugging Your Staff:
Mosquito-borne Diseases - Mitigation Tactics.
infection is a significant health risk throughout Brazil. Such infections
include chikungunya, dengue fever, yellow fever, malaria, and Zika. While
chikungunya and dengue fever have become endemic countrywide, yellow fever and
malaria are more prevalent in the non-urban areas. There are no prophylactic
therapies for dengue and chikungunya. The most prudent strategy is to prevent
mosquito bites through repellants, treated bed nets, window screens and
All U.S. government
personnel obtain yellow fever vaccination prior to travel to Brazil. Travelers
should carry a documented yellow fever card.
The CDC has issued a Level
2 travel alert for countries affected by the Zika virus. Zika is a
mosquito-borne virus that causes flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, headache, joint
pain, rash) for two to seven days. Because of concerns about an association of
Zika virus infection during pregnancy with microcephaly, a congenital brain
deformity, pregnant women and those who may become pregnant may want to avoid
unnecessary travel to the region or special precautions.
Incidences of water-borne
diseases increase during periods of flooding. Only consume bottled or purified
water, and take special precautions when eating fruits and vegetables,
especially during the rainy seasons.
Leptospirosis, while not
common, is a bacterial infection spread via rodent droppings and waste. Given
the limitations of the sanitation system in non-urban areas of Brazil, exercise
caution including vigilant hand washing after outdoor contact, and vaccinate
pets that may contract the disease from food bowls and other exposed surfaces
rodents may traverse. Early manifestations of the disease present a flu-like
special attention to HIV/AIDS prevention. In addition to elevated infection
rates among high-risk populations such as commercial sex workers and mobile
populations such as miners or loggers, World Health Organization data shows
that Brazil has among the highest prevalence HIV rates in Latin America and the
Caribbean. WHO recommends preventive sexual practices to include of use of
Several U.S. citizens have
died while seeking medical care from non-traditional “healers” and
practitioners. Ensure you have access to proper medical care if seeking such
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Brazil.
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Medication, I’m Drinking What in My
Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for
Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council
The Rio de Janeiro Country Council is one of
several OSAC groups in Brazil. It meets quarterly and has approximately 50
members. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Latin America team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Consulate Contact
Avenida Presidente Wilson, 147,
Switchboard: +55 (21) 3823-2000
After-hour emergencies: +55 (21)
Regional Security Officer: +55
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts in Brazil
you travel, consider the following resources: