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 is the principal threat to visitors in Brazil, especially in the larger cities. 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. The police and the press report that crime is becoming more widespread. Violent crimes, such as murder, kidnapping, carjacking, armed assault and burglary, occur regularly. The consolidation of power among a few large criminal gangs has led to a decrease in gang-on-gang violence; however, this has resulted in an increased focus on civilian targets.
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, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Other perpetrators are from the surrounding satellite cities and travel by metro, bus, or car into the neighborhoods looking for targets of opportunity. 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.
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 and often are accompanied by gratuitous violence.
Caution is required when travelling at night through more rural areas and satellite cities due to the significant potential for roadside robberies.
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.
Organized crime in Brasilia does exist but is on a smaller scale compared to other cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, which have major drug gangs that operate mainly in the favelas (slum communities). In 2006, these gangs launched two dedicated waves of violence in Sao Paulo that were likened by many to a terrorist event. The President has called these gangs “terrorist organizations.”
Overall Road Safety Situation
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Throughout Brazil, 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.
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.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
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.
Political violence in the form of protests occurs throughout Brazil, especially in the capital and major cities. These protests are held for various reasons that might include work conditions, wages, and 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. Anarchist elements infiltrated numerous otherwise peaceful protests during the summer and fall of 2013 that resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and authorities.
There were multiple protests across the country in 2013 that corresponded with the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup soccer tournament. While the majority of these protests were peaceful, violence did occur on several occasions. Brasilia and Manaus were two major cities in Embassy Brasilia’s consular district that experienced prolonged demonstrations during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup. The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup brought country-wide demonstrations that were unprecedented over the past three decades. These demonstrations resulted in at least eight deaths nationwide and several hundred injuries. In the run up to the Confederations Cup, a large crowd turned unruly very quickly and attempted to break into the Brazilian National Congress and Foreign Ministry. Police increased their use of force to end the demonstration after rocks and other debris were used to damage the buildings. A bus chartered by corporate sponsors on the way to a Confederations Cup match was surrounded, the tires were flattened, and the passengers had to walk the rest of the way to the stadium. Demonstrations caused significant damage to building housing U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro.
Otherwise peaceful demonstrations have been infiltrated by an anarchist movement known as the Black Bloc. The media refers to the Black Bloc as a loosely connected group of protestors that denounce political, economic, and social issues ranging from institutional corruption to the poor quality of public services. Black Bloc protestors wear black clothing and black bandanas/masks. They utilize social media to organize themselves. Sources indicate that Black Bloc protestors will likely infiltrate peaceful demonstrations during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
In another demonstration unrelated to the 2013 Confederations Cup or the Brazilian Government, protestors threw paint balloons at U.S. Embassy Brasilia, resulting in multiple arrests.
With the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games on the horizon, the government is preparing for more demonstrations, and many believe that anti-government demonstrations will continue. Wide-ranging, large-scale demonstrations could significantly tax government emergency response resources. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the OSAC Major Events teams will disseminate daily and ad hoc situational reports to inform constituents of any on-going protest activity and unique security incidents in World Cup host cities.
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.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
Reports of cargo theft, from both overland shipments and from storage facilities, occur frequently. Airports countrywide inaugurated supplemental security measures, in part to thwart criminal activity targeting aviation facilities. Road conditions range from extremely poor to good, and accidents are always a concern outside of major cities.
The major cities of Brazil experience the effects of persons addicted to illicit drugs. This includes criminal activity - such as street assaults and robberies - the proceeds of which are used support their addictions. Brazil is the number two consumer of cocaine in the world, behind the United States. As such, a large proportion of crimes have a nexus to narcotics.
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. “Quicknapping” or “express kidnapping” is a common kidnapping tactic throughout Brazil. Brazilians are most often targeted, but all foreigners are vulnerable to this crime.
Police officials frequently cite lack of resources, staff, basic equipment, and low morale as reasons for irregular response times and unsolved crimes.
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 in Brazil, including detainment or arrest by the police.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
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
Manaus Emergency Services Telephone
Fire Department 193
Civil Police 197 or (92) 3612-3122
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics (Brasilia)
Hospital Santa Lucia, located at W3 Sul 716, Conjunto C in the Asa Sul Section. The telephone number is (61) 3445-0000.
Hospital Brasilia, located at Shis QI 15, TR. 5, Lote G. The telephone number is (61) 3248-9000
Hospital de Base (Trauma Care), located at SMHS 101, Bloco A, in the Asa Sul Section. The telephone number is (61) 3325-4080/5050.
For private, ground-ambulance service -- Vida Ambulance (61) 3248-3030
Contact Information for Recommended Local Hospitals and Clinics (Manaus)
Hospital Da Aeronáutica De Manaus -- (92) 3624-5953
Hospital Tropical, located at Av. Pedro Teixeira 25, Dom Pedro, 69.010. The telephone number is (92) 3656-1441.
Hospital Adventista De Manaus, Located At Rua Gov. Danilo Areosa 139, Distrito Industrial. The telephone number is (92) 2123-1313.
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
For air medical evacuation services, the Embassy recommends visitors purchase private air medical evacuation insurance before traveling to Brazil. The Embassy can assist visitors with further information about obtaining services available.
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.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
There are a variety of scams used by the criminals to rob victims, which include:
An unknown individual calls to say that a person you know, possibly a family member, has been kidnapped, and unless you immediately pay the ransom the person will be harmed. The ransom is paid, and it 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.
Areas to be Avoided
The areas in and around the hotel sector in Brasilia can be dangerous, especially at night. Also visitors should be alert to their surroundings, especially at large markets. The satellite cities around Brasilia are considered unsafe at night and should be avoided during those hours.
Best Situational Awareness Practices
Visitors to Brazil should practice common sense preventive security techniques, just as they would in any large city. Criminals are determined and sophisticated, which requires visitors to be alert to their surroundings. The following security tips should be adhered to in order to avoid becoming a victim of crime:
Traveling in groups of two or more persons appears to have a positive effect on deterring criminals. Do not walk on beaches or in parks after dark. Assaults are common in these areas. Be alert at open markets or crowded areas. 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.
Visitors can reduce their risk of becoming a victim of crime by varying routes and times of travel and ensuring residences are sufficiently protected. 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. 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 grills on all windows, adequate front and rear security lighting, and a monitored alarm system.
Do not physically resist any robbery attempt. While this is a personal decision, statistics show that resistance can lead to injury or death.
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 such a drink.
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.
Avoid city buses and other public transportation. Many pass through high crime areas and are susceptible to robberies. Only use legitimate, well-marked, taxis.
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.
It is recommended that American visitors to the tri-border area, to include Foz de Iguazu, remain especially vigilant and maintain a low profile. To date, no incidents directed against official or non-official Americans have occurred in this area.
Visitors should avoid areas where large crowds are gathering or protests are on-going.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
U.S. Embassy Brasilia is located at Av. Das Nacoes Sul, Quadra 801, Lote 3. The telephone number +55 (61) 3312-7000. Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to Marine Security Guard at +55 (61) 3312-7400. The RSO may be reached through the general embassy phone number (extension 7390). The American Citizen Service Section may be reached through extension 7063 or 7471. The Foreign Commercial Officer POC may be reached through extension 7403. The Embassy’s fax number is +55 (61) 3322-4224.
U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro is located at Av. Presidente Wilson, 147 Bairro Castelo. The telephone number is +55 (21) 3823-2000. Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to post one at +55 (21) 3823-2029. The RSO may be reached at extension 2908. The Consulate’s fax number is +55 (21) 3823-2003.
U.S. Consulate General Sao Paulo is located at Rua Thomas Deloney, 381 Chacara Santo Antonio, Sao Paulo, 04710-110. The telephone number is +55 (11) 5186-7000. Emergencies and calls after normal business hours may be directed to post one at +55 (11) 5181-7373. The RSO may be reached at +55 (11) 5186-7260. The Consulate’s fax number is +55 (11) 5186-7099.
U.S. companies are encouraged to contact the RSO in Brasilia for specific inquires 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 updated information, please contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia or consult the web sites of the Consular Bureau of the Department of State (www.travel.state.gov) or of the United States Embassy in Brasilia (www.embaixadaamericana.org.br).
OSAC Country Council Information
Brasilia does not have an OSAC Country Council, but there are Country Councils in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Please review the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo Crime and Safety Reports for additional details.