The US’s Last Rap Sheet on Brazil Talks About Rampant Crime

The U.S. Department of State has just updated this Thursday, February 15, its information on Brazil. It reports that crime has reached very high levels and continues to rise even in rural areas. Several American citizens were raped in the country in 2006 the government website informs.

According to the State Department, the murder rates in Brazil exceed by several times those in the United States with the aggravating factor that the majority of crimes are never solved. Foreign tourists are warned that they are frequent targets of criminals, mainly in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, the capital of Bahia state.

Tourists are advised to pay close attention when traveling at night due to robberies that "randomly target passing vehicles." They are also informed that "quicknapping," a short kidnapping in which the victims are forced to withdraw funds with their ATM cards, are common close to banks and ATM machines. Victims have been beaten and raped in some cases.

Here's more of the information put out by the State Department:

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Political and labor strikes and demonstrations occur sporadically in urban areas and may cause temporary disruption to public transportation. Naturally, protests anywhere in the world have the potential to become violent. In addition, criminal organizations, during 2006, staged several violent campaigns against public institutions in the São Paulo State leading to a large number of deaths.

While it is unlikely that U.S. citizens would be targeted during such events, U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Brazil are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid any large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest.

Individuals with ties to criminal entities operate along the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. These organizations are involved in the trafficking of illicit goods; some individuals in the area are financially supporting designated foreign terrorist organizations. U.S. citizens crossing into Paraguay or Argentina may wish to consult the Consular Information Sheets for those countries.

Colombian terrorist groups have been known to operate in the border areas of neighboring countries. Although there have been reports of isolated small-scale armed incursions from Colombia into Brazil in the past, we know of no specific threat directed against U.S. citizens across the border in Brazil at this time.

Colombian groups have perpetrated kidnappings of residents and tourists in border areas of Colombia's neighbors. Therefore, U.S. citizens traveling or residing in areas of Brazil near the Colombian border are urged to exercise caution.

U.S. citizens are urged to take care when visiting remote parts of the Amazon basin and respect local laws and customs. U.S. visitors should ensure that their outfitter/guide is experienced in the Amazon.

CRIME: 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 several times higher than that of the U.S. Rates for other crimes are similarly high. The majority of crimes are not solved. There were several reported rapes against American citizens in 2006.

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 Rio de Janeiro and Salvador.

Caution is advised with regard to nighttime travel through more rural areas and satellite cities due to reported incidents of roadside robberies that randomly target passing vehicles. Robbery and "quicknapping" outside of banks and ATM machines are common.

In a "quicknapping," criminals abduct victims for a short time in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business or the victim's ATM card. Some victims have been beaten and/or raped.

The incidence of crime against tourists is greater in areas surrounding beaches, hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs, and other similar establishments that cater to visitors. This type of crime is especially prevalent during Carnaval (Brazilian Mardi Gras), but takes place throughout the year.

While the risk is greater at dusk and during the evening hours, street crime can occur both day and night, and even safer areas of cities are not immune. Incidents of theft on city buses are frequent and visitors should avoid such transportation.

Several Brazilian cities have established specialized tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists. In Rio de Janeiro, crime continues to plague the major tourist areas.

At airports, hotel lobbies, bus stations and other public places, incidents of pick pocketing, theft of hand carried luggage, and laptop computers are common. Travelers should "dress down" when outside and avoid carrying valuables or wearing jewelry or expensive watches.

"Good Samaritan" scams are common. If a tourist looks lost or seems to be having trouble communicating, a seemingly innocent bystander offering help may victimize them. Care should be taken at and around banks and internationally connected automatic teller machines that take U.S. credit or debit cards.

Very poor neighborhoods known as "favelas," such as those located on steep hillsides in Rio de Janeiro, are found throughout Brazil. These areas are sites of uncontrolled criminal activity and are often not patrolled by police. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid these unsafe areas. Carjacking is on the increase in São Paulo, Recife and other cities.

Travelers using personal ATMs or credit cards sometimes receive billing statements with non-authorized charges after returning from a visit to Brazil. The Embassy and Consulates have received numerous reports from both official Americans and tourists who have had their cards cloned or duplicated without their knowledge. Those using such payment methods should carefully monitor their banking online for the duration of their visit.

While the ability of Brazilian police to help recover stolen property is limited, it is nevertheless strongly advised to obtain a "boletim de ocorrência" (police report) at a "delegacia" (police station) whenever any possessions are lost or stolen. This will facilitate the traveler's exit from Brazil and insurance claims.

BRASILIA: Once spared the crime rates of other Brazilian cities, Brasilia now has significant crime problems. Armed robberies (which are sometimes violent) and street crime are becoming commonplace. Following the citywide trend of previous years, reports of residential burglaries continue to occur in the generally affluent residential sections of the city.

Public transportation, hotel sectors and tourist areas are still the locations with the highest crime rates, though statistics show that incidents can happen anywhere and at anytime. A significant number of criminals now use lethal weapons in the course of carrying out their criminal activities and the level of gratuitous violence is on the increase. The majority of kidnappings in Brasilia continue to be the "quicknappings."

RIO DE JANEIRO: The city continues to experience a high incidence of crime. Tourists are particularly vulnerable to street thefts and robberies on and in areas adjacent to major tourist attractions and the main beaches in the city. Walking on the beaches is very dangerous at night.

During the day, travelers are advised not to take possessions of value to the beach. Incidents affecting tourists in 2006 included the robbery of cars and a tourist bus going into the city from the airport and the murder of a Portuguese tourist at 8:30 a.m. on Copacabana beach.

Drug gangs are often responsible for destruction of property and other violence, such as the burning of public buses at the end of 2005 caused the deaths of some passengers. While these occurrences have not resulted in any injuries to U.S. citizens, visitors and residents alike should be aware that such incidents could result in closed shops and disrupted municipal services.

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. While most police officials are honest, in 2006, there were several cases of corrupt police officials extorting money from American tourists. All incidents should be reported to the tourist police, who can be reached at 3399-7170/71/72/73.

SíƒO PAULO: While similar incidents may occur elsewhere, all areas of São Paulo have a high rate of armed robbery of pedestrians at stoplights. There is a particularly high incidence of robberies and pick pocketing in the Praça da Sé section of São Paulo and in the eastern part of the city.

As is true of "red light districts" in other cities, the areas of São Paulo on Rua Augusta north of Avenida Paulista and the Estação de Luz metro area are especially dangerous. There are regular reports of young women slipping knockout drops in men's drinks and robbing them of all their belongings while they are unconscious.

Armed holdups of pedestrians and motorists by young men on motorcycles ("motoboys") are an increasingly common occurrence in some parts of São Paulo. Victims who resist risk being shot. The number one item of choice by robbers in São Paulo, especially with regards to business travelers, is laptop computers.

Recent efforts of incarcerated drug lords to exert their power outside of their jail cells have resulted in sporadic disruptions in the city, violence directed at the authorities, bus burnings and vandalism at ATM machines. These occurrences have not resulted in any injuries to U.S. citizens. Visitors and residents should respect police roadblocks and be aware that some municipal services may be disrupted.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Brazil, a nation the size of the lower 48 United States, has an advanced developing economy. Facilities for tourism are excellent in the major cities, but vary in quality in remote areas. The capital is Brasí­lia.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The Department of State strongly encourages travelers to obtain passports well in advance of any planned travel. Routine passport applications by mail take up to six weeks to be issued.

A passport and visa are required for U.S. citizens traveling to Brazil for any purpose. Brazilian visas must be obtained in advance from the Brazilian Embassy or consulate nearest to the traveler's place of residence. There are no "airport visas" and immigration authorities will refuse entry to Brazil to anyone not possessing a valid visa.

All Brazilian visas, regardless of the length of validity, must initially be used within 90 days of the issuance date or will no longer be valid. Immigration authorities will not allow entry into Brazil without a valid visa. The U.S. Government cannot assist travelers who arrive in Brazil without proper documentation.

In response to the introduction of the US-VISIT program, on January 1, 2004 the Government of Brazil began fingerprinting/photographing all U.S. citizens arriving in Brazil.

In the first six weeks of 2004, two U.S. citizens were fined (an average $15,000 each) for making obscene gestures while being photographed at a Brazilian port of entry.

Travelers are reminded that they are subject to local law, and that showing contempt to a government official is a serious offense in Brazil. (Fines for such offenses are based on the offender's claimed income).

Additionally, travelers who have recently visited certain countries, including most other Latin American countries may be required to present an inoculation card indicating they had a yellow fever inoculation or they may not be allowed to board the plane or enter the country.

Minors (under 18) traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party, must present written authorization by the absent parent(s) or legal guardian specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party. The authorization (in Portuguese) must be notarized and then authenticated by the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate.

For current entry and customs requirements for Brazil, travelers may contact the Brazilian Embassy at 3009 Whitehaven St. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20008; telephone 1-202-238-2828, e-mail; Internet:

Travelers may also contact the Brazilian consulates in Boston, Houston, Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Addresses, phone numbers, web and e-mail addresses, and jurisdictions of these consulates may be found at the Brazilian Embassy web site linked above.

DUAL NATIONALITY: U.S. citizens also possessing Brazilian nationality cannot be issued Brazilian visas and must obtain a Brazilian passport (from the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate nearest to their place of residence) to enter and depart Brazil.

In addition to being subject to all Brazilian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Brazilian citizens.

Note that children adopted from Brazil are still considered Brazilian citizens and must be documented as such should they return to Brazil.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is generally good, but it varies in quality, particularly in remote areas, and it may not meet U.S. standards outside the major cities. Expatriates in Brazil regularly use the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo. The hospital phone is (55-11) 3747-1301.

Plastic and other elective/cosmetic surgery is a major medical industry in Brazil. While Brazil has many plastic surgery facilities that are on par with those found in the United States, two U.S. citizens died and one was left in vegetative state from complications following plastic surgery in 2005.

U.S. citizens should make sure when arranging such surgery that emergency medical facilities are available, as some "boutique" plastic surgery operations offer luxurious facilities, but are not hospitals and are therefore unable to deal with unforeseen emergencies.

Several U.S. citizens have also died while visiting non-traditional healers outside of urban areas. While this is not surprising given that this type of treatment often attracts the terminally ill, U.S. citizens are advised to ensure they have access to proper medical care when visiting the site.

In the unfortunate event of a death, relatives or friends of any deceased U.S. citizen are advised to immediately contact the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia and not to contract with local mortuary services before seeking embassy assistance.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at Further health information for travelers is available at

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Brazil is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Travelers may consider obtaining an Inter-American Driving Permit, to carry along with their valid U.S. license if they plan to drive while in Brazil. Such permits can be obtained through AAA or other sources.

Road conditions in Brazil vary widely throughout the country. State roads (especially in the south) are often excellent, while federal, interstate roads (designated by 'BR') are often very poor due to lack of maintenance. There are occasional stretches of modern divided highway (especially in São Paulo State) that rival European or U.S. roads.

In municipal areas, however, signs, shoulders, exits, and merge lanes tend to be haphazard. There are many potholes and surfaces are frequently uneven and bumpy. Some stretches of federal roads and rural state roads are so potholed that high-clearance vehicles are needed to traverse them.

Many cities and towns have erected speed bumps, which are sometimes severe and may be unpainted and unmarked. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and horse-drawn vehicles all pose hazards and can be encountered even on major routes.

Travel after dark outside city centers is not recommended because of animals and disabled vehicles. Dirt roads are the rule in remote areas. These vary widely in quality and may quickly become more dangerous, even impassable, in rainy weather.

Passenger car travel can be reasonably safe in most areas if one takes into account the prevailing conditions described above and exercises due prudence and caution. Passenger-bus hijacking, usually non-violent, occurs at random in some areas of the country.

Brazil's inter-city roads are widely recognized as among the most dangerous in the world. As is the case elsewhere in the region, poor driving skills, bad roads and a high density of trucks combine to make travel considerably more hazardous than in the United States.

There are no laws requiring truckers to take mandatory rest stops and they often drive for excessive periods of time. All major inter-city routes are saturated with heavy truck traffic and for the most part have only two lanes. Road maintenance is inadequate and some long-distance roads through the Amazon forest are impassable much of the year.

There are few railroads and passenger train travel is almost nonexistent. Private cars and public buses are the main modes of inter-city road travel. Buses can range (depending on the route and the price) from luxurious and well maintained to basic and mechanically unsound.

The Brazilian Federal Government maintains a (Portuguese language) website with up-to-date information on road conditions throughout the country (; the site also has downloadable state roadmaps.

A private Brazilian company, Quatro Rodas, publishes road maps that contain local phone numbers to ascertain the current conditions of roads on the map. They are available at

Apart from toll roads, which generally have their own services, roadside assistance is available only very sporadically and informally through local private mechanics. There is a group called the "Angels of the Pavement" that provides roadside assistance on the main highway between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The fastest way to summon assistance in an emergency anywhere in the country is to dial 193, a universal number staffed by local fire departments. This service is in Portuguese only. Many motorists in major urban areas and more developed parts of the country carry cellular phones, and can be asked to assist in calling for help.

Brazilian traffic laws impose severe penalties for a number of traffic offenses. Enforcement ranges from sporadic to non-existent, so motorists should not assume that others will necessarily follow even the most fundamental and widely accepted rules of the road. Some important local rules and customs include the following:

 * Seat Belts: All states have seat belt laws, but enforcement varies from state to state

 * Child Car Seats: Some states require child car seats, but they are not universally available or affordable, and enforcement is also lax. As a result, most children are not secured in car seats.

 * Speed Limits: The maximum speed limit on major, divided highways is 120 kmph (74 mph). Lower limits (usually 60 kmph (40 mph)) are often posted in urban areas, depending on the road and the nature of the neighborhood. Speed limits are widely ignored and rarely enforced. Many towns and cities have marked electronic/photographic devices ("Fiscalização Eletrônica"), which verify speed and snap photos of violators' cars and license plates as a basis for issuing speeding tickets. Brazilian drivers tend to brake suddenly when encountering these devices.
 * Yielding the Right of Way: Drivers must yield the right of way to cars on their right. Compliance with stop signs is rarely enforced; so many motorists treat them as yield signs.
 * Driving Under the Influence: Drivers are in violation of the law if blood/alcohol level reaches 0.06 percent.
 * Turns on Red Lights: Not permitted, except for right turns where there is a sign with an arrow pointing right and the words "Livre í  Direita."
 * Penalties for Drivers Involved in an Accident Resulting in Injury or Death: In addition to possible criminal charges and penalties, compensatory and punitive damages may also apply.
 * Local Driving Customs: Drivers often use flashes or wave a hand out of the window to signal other drivers to slow down. Drivers will often break suddenly to slow down for the electronic speed traps mentioned above. In addition, pedestrian "zebra" crossings are strictly observed in some places (especially in Brasí­lia) and ignored most everywhere else.

For specific information concerning Brazilian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Brazilian National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at

For additional information from other sources in Brazil about road safety and specific information about accident statistics, Brazilian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please see the following web sites: (Brazilian Federal Highway Police, in Portuguese only), and (Ministry of Transportation, in Portuguese only).

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Brazil's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Brazil's air carrier operations. Foreigners are required to carry their passports for internal flights. It can sometimes be difficult to book flights as a result of the 2006 financial collapse of Brazil's largest airline, Varig. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Brazilian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Brazil of items such as firearms, antiquities, tropical plants, medications, and business equipment. In the Amazon region, there is a special concern for the export of biological material, which could have genetic value.

People propagating or exporting biological material without proper permits run the risk of being accused of "biopiracy," a serious offence in Brazil. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Brazil in Washington or one of Brazil's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.

Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Brazilian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.

Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Brazil are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Brazil are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Brazil.

Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located in Brasí­lia at Avenida das Nações, Lote 3, telephone 011-55-61-3312-7000, after-hours telephone 011-55-61-3312-7400; web site at Consular Section public hours are 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday except Brazilian and U.S. holidays. Non-emergency services are provided by appointment, available at 61-3312-7471 or 7063.

There are consulates in the following cities:

Recife: Rua Gonçalves Maia 163, telephone 011-55-81-3416-3050, after-hours telephone 011-55-3416-3060; web site at Consular Section public hours are 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday except Brazilian and U.S. holidays.

Rio de Janeiro: Avenida Presidente Wilson 147, telephone 011-55-21-2292-7117, after-hours 011-55-21-2220-0489; web site at Consular Section public hours are 8:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (passports and reports of birth by appointment) and 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (notary services), Monday through Friday, except Brazilian and U.S. holidays. Non-emergency passports and reports of appointments should be done by appointment; please request at

São Paulo: Rua Henri Dunant, 500 Bairro Chácara Santo Antônio, telephone 011-55-11-5186-7000, after hours telephone 011-55-11-5181-8730; web site at Consular Section public hours are 8:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m., Monday through Friday and 2:00 p.m. -3:30 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday except Brazilian and U.S. holidays. Non-emergency services are done by appointments, please request at, by phone: 11-5186-7315 or by fax: 11-5186-7159.

There are Consular Agencies in:

Belém: Edifí­cio Sí­ntese 21, Av. Conselheiro Furtado 2865, Rooms 1104/1106; telephone 011-55-91-3259-4566.

Manaus: Rua Franco de Sá, 230 São Francisco, Edifí­cio Atrium, Rm. 306; telephone 011-55-92-3611-3333.

Salvador da Bahia: Av. Tancredo Neves, 1632, Rm. 1401 – Salvador Trade Center – Torre Sul, Caminho da írvores; telephone 011-55-71-3113-2090/2091/2092.

Fortaleza: Av. Santos Dumont 2828 suite 708 – Aldeota; telephone 011-55-85-3486-1306

Porto Alegre: The Instituto Cultural Brasil-Norteamericano, Rua Riachuelo, 1257, Centro; telephone 011-55-51-3226-3344.


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