Rio de Janeiro: God Answered our Prayers for Justice

Written by on June 30th, 2014

Brazil’s capital, Rio de Janeiro, was our City in Focus back in March 2014. We asked for your prayers as the city prepared to host seven of the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches. Like other international sporting events, the World Cup is widely suspected as a breeding ground for sexual exploitation. Rio has an established sex trade in its Copacabana district, so Brazilian officials and human rights advocates were concerned that Rio’s permissive stance towards commercialized sex would promote an even higher incidence of trafficking during the FIFA games.1

Our 2014 Liberdade campaign brought a team from Exodus Cry to Rio in June, during the World Cup event. They stayed in Brazil’s oldest red-light district, Vila Mimosa. In contrast to Copacabana’s more “upscale” reputation, Vila Mimosa is poor and many of those being prostituted in the sex industry have arrived in the district “out of desperation, necessity, and a lack of real alternatives.”2

But in the midst of this desperation, God answered our prayers for justice.

On June 3, news broke that Vila Mimosa’s notorious gang leader and trafficker Anderson Fernandes Bezerra was arrested along with two other people after an extensive police investigation. Bezerra is known as “Rei das Novinhas” or “King of the Brand New.” According to police, he was charged with grand theft auto, corruption of minors, and forcing a sixteen-year-old to have an abortion. Along with Bezerra, Gabriela Noêmia Avanza France was arrested for trafficking minors at her night club. Patrick Michel de Souza Telles was arrested for his sexual relationship with a minor. After Bezerra’s bust, Officer Marcello Maia was hopeful that several other similar investigations would be successful.3

We ask for your continued prayers for justice in Rio de Janeiro and for those who are living in Vila Mimosa without hope. We are grateful for God’s victory and look forward to many more breakthroughs all across Brazil.

Footnotes

      1. Brown, Spencer. “Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Potentially Problematic During World Cup.” Washington Examiner, June 12, 2014. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/human-trafficking-and-sexual-exploitation-potentially-problematic-during-world-cup/article/2549681.
      2. Wilks, Lauren. “Inside Rio’s Oldest and Largest Red-Light District.” Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. December 18, 2013. http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/brazil-rio-sex-tourism-prostitution-vila-mimosa.
      3. France, Ricardo. “”King of the Brand New and Two Other People Were Arrested in Vila Mimosa.” Policia Civil, June 3, 2014. http://www.policiacivil.rj.gov.br/exibir.asp?id=19355.
      4. Additional Resources: “Rio De Janeiro : A Host City for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.” FIFA.com. http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/destination/cities/city=1141/index.html. Wilks, Lauren. “Sex and Survival in Rio’s Red-Light District.” Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. November 27, 2013. http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/south-america-brazil-rio-de-janeiro-sex-survival-red-light-district-prostitution-world-cup.
  • thaddeusblanchette

    First of all, these arrests had nothing to do with the Cup, let alone “Rio de Janeiro’s permissive attitude towards prostitution”.

    They were fruit of on-going investigations which were occurring months before the Cup. There is no evidence that Bezerra is a gang leader. Apparently, three underaged girls (17 years old) were turning tricks in his Vila Mimosa club. This is INCREDIBLY illegal in Brazil and it turns out that it was several of the women in VM who dropped a dime on Bezerra in the first place. This occurred because, unlike the U.S. where prostitution is illegal, independent prostitution by adults in Brazil is not illegal. This means that when the other women in VM saw what was occurring, they could safely approach police officers and let them know what was happening.

    In other words, it is probably BECAUSE of Brazil’s “permissive” attitude of not criminalizing sex workers that Bezerra and his manager Gabriela (as well as a client) were caught.

    Finally, I work for the Prostitution Observatory of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. During the World Cup, we had a presence in Vila Mimosa pretty much constantly. We never saw Exodus Cry in the neighborhood, nor heard about you being there, which is strange because one of our research allies is the an Evangelical Christian group working in the neighborhood.

    You’ll be surprised to learn that there are currently ZERO cases of sexual exploitation of minors in front of the state of Rio de Janeiro’s courts, which leads us to suspect that the charges against Bezerra have been dropped – probably due to habeus corpus (i.e. the girls found in his brothel are unwilling to testify against him). Unless someone else in the VM community decides to come forward as an official witness, said charges probably won’t be raised. Again, this is another reason why treating the men and women who sell sex as ALLIES instead of criminals can help you. If the cops have the trust of the people of VM, they can get a witness.

    Unfortunately, the police probably don’t inspire enough trust to get someone to actually testify in court. Why? Because right about the same time Bezerra was being arrested, an “anti-sexual exploitation” police raid across the bay in Niteroi resulted in several women being raped and beaten by police. You can get the details here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHwQis5iDxQ

    We haven’t seen Exodus Cry talk about this, nor about the rest of the police violence against prostitutes that we have documented in Brazil.

    Why not?