Report from Rio de Janeiro

My friend in Rio, Ana, has been sending me unhappy news about sliding conditions in the city. Those photos in American newspapers of trash piled up in the water and shoreline of Copacabana Beach are all too true. The mayor, says Ana, hasn’t been able to do anything about it. An animal activist, she is outraged that he has mandated the killing of any animal caught on the street. Apparently, this action is supposed to keep the streets clean for the upcoming Olympics.

And what of the waters the athletes are supposed to compete in? Cariocas sunning themselves do not approach the water at all; sailors who are splashed with it have been coming down with severe infections. The news has reached the world, and a couple of athletes have opted to cancel their participation. Then there is the Zika threat. In that climate, there is more bare skin than not, even in the milder climate of their winter in August.

Ana tells me street crime is rampant, that cost is exorbitant, that the economy has been in a spiral owing to the corrupt government headed by President Dilma Roussef, who may be impeached any moment.

In sum, Brazil, Rio de Janeiro in particular, is not a good place to visit. The country, noted for surging prosperity when Renato and I departed it in 1980, has collapsed into itself. This is beyond sad. The people do not deserve what has happened.

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