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Manifestation against Violence in Fortaleza - Ceara - BrazilManifestation against Violence in Fortaleza – Ceará – Brazil
“Enough! We want to Live Fortaleza!”
Photo Credit: Tribuna do Ceará


In Mexico’s NGO Citizen Council for Public Security & Criminal Justice yearly list of the fifty most violent cities around the world, sixteen Brazilian cities feature among the Top 50 for 2013. Six of them, located in Northeast Brazil, rank among the top fifteen.

Fortaleza, capital of Ceará, ranked seventh worldwide – the city placed thirteenth in 2012 – and second in Brazil, after Maceió (Alagoas). With the expansion of drug trafficking, Fortaleza has become increasingly more violent over the years since I lived there. Nowadays, my best friend in Fortaleza suffers from panic attacks whenever she has to walk the streets. Another friend reports that home invaders have become more brazen.

Data released for Fortaleza by the Secretariat of Public Security & Social Defense of Ceará (SSPDS-CE) reveal that during the period from January 1 to March 19, 2014, there were 766 homicides. These included 433 deaths from gunshot wounds, 14 knifed to death, and 3 bludgeoned. The cause of death of the remaining 316 corpses is unknown. That’s an average of 9.8 persons murdered every day in Fortaleza.

When attending the games in Fortaleza during the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, soccer fans should be on the alert.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon in an upscale neighborhood in the city, my two sons and I set out on a fifteen-minute walk to the shopping mall on Avenida Dom Luís. When we crossed the intersection with Avenida Senador Virgílio Távora, we observed a street gang, two blocks away, approaching on the other side of Avenida Dom Luís.

Intersection of Av Dom Luis with Av Senador Virgilio Tavora - Fortaleza - BrazilIntersection of Avenida Dom Luís with Avenida Senador Virgílio Távora
Fortaleza – Brazil
Source: skyscrapercity.com

“The convenience store,” my older son said. He and his brother sprinted across the street ahead of oncoming traffic towards the gas station.

Impeded by the traffic, I waited on the median divider island. The gang was now half-a-block away. A voice shouted from behind me. Looking around, I saw a security guard standing outside an office building. He beckoned to me.

“Stand behind me,” the security guard said when I joined him. He fingered the gun at his hip.

I remained calm. My sons had reached safety. I prepared myself for the inevitable. As the gang came closer, I estimated that they were about fifty of them: male and female, ranging in ages from eight to eighteen.

Then a miracle happened.

Two police cars arrived on the scene. Loud confusion ensued. The policemen ordered the children and adolescents to prostrate on the sidewalk with their hands on their heads.

With the gang under police control, my sons joined me. “Lots of wallets and watches are in the drain,” they reported.

“Getting rid of evidence,” the guard said.

After thanking the guard for coming to my rescue, my sons and I returned home. There could be more trouble up ahead.

Fortaleza, like most of Brazil’s major cities, is a world of contrasts between the rich and destitute. Extreme inequality breeds crime and violence. The corpses tell the tale.