I know it's a little early to consider making any travel plans for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but travel planners really do need to be aware of just how dangerous Rio and other cities in Brazil are -- and not only to reporters like me who nearly got killed in a horrific mid-air collision that did kill 154 over the Amazon three years ago -- and then got sued for "dishonoring" Brazil, for complaining about the well-known faults of air-traffic safety there -- among them the fact that, as the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board put it: Air traffic control had two planes at the same altitude at opposite directions on the same airway, resulting in that mid-air collision. Here's the NTSB's report on the crash.
Now take this latest story of atrocious crime in Rio today. Drug gangs SHOT DOWN A HELICOPTER; killed two police officers and injured four others; and set fire to five buses and a school.
While noting in fairness that Brazilian authorities have been trying to address both the reality of the crime crisis as well as the international public perception of Brazil and its tourism industry, I repeat here excerpts from the current advisory on travel to Brazil by the U.S. State Department:
"Crime throughout Brazil has reached very high levels. The Brazilian police and the Brazilian press report that the rate of crime continues to rise, especially in the major urban centers – though it is also spreading in rural areas. Brazil’s murder rate is more than four times higher than that of the U.S. Rates for other crimes are similarly high. The majority of crimes are not solved. There were rapes reported by American citizens in 2008.
"Street crime remains a problem for visitors and local residents alike, especially in the evenings and late at night. Foreign tourists are often targets of crime, and Americans are not exempt. This targeting occurs in all tourist areas but is especially problematic in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Recife."
In Rio, "tourists are particularly vulnerable to street thefts and robberies in areas adjacent to major tourist attractions and on the main beaches in the city. In 2008 there were attacks along trails leading to the famous Corcovado Mountain, on the road linking the airport and the South Zone and on the beaches of Copacabana. Travelers are advised not to take possessions of value to the beach. Robbers and rapists sometimes slip incapacitating drugs into their drinks at bars, hotel rooms, or street parties. While crime occurs throughout the year, it is more frequent during Carnaval and the weeks prior. In the weeks before Carnaval 2009, robbers ransacked two tourist hostels. Travelers should be aware of their surroundings and victims are advised to relinquish personal belongings rather than resist or fight back. Tourists should choose lodging carefully, considering security and availability of a safe to store valuables, as well as location. Over the past year, attacks against motorists increased. In Rio de Janeiro City, motorists are allowed to treat stoplights as stop signs between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to protect against holdups at intersections. ..."