O Globo reported this week that Host Hotels & Resorts is buying the Copacabana Marriott hotel for US$ 47.5 million. However, Host Hotels is closely related to Marriott, which will continue to manage the property– so the purchase may be more of an accounting move than a newsworthy investment. The Copa Marriott, located right across the street from one of the world’s most famous beaches, has 245 rooms. Many more are being built and remodeled to accomodate guests in Rio for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
The hotel changeover, such as it is, takes place in a moment of flux here. In Rio, public safety duties are divided up among military police, civil police, traffic police, and the municipal guard (there is also a highway police force and the local branch of the federal police, an FBI equivalent). Today the military police occupied the Morro dos Macacos favela in the Tijuca neighborhood, in preparation for Rio’s 13th UPP, or police pacification unit. Not a bullet was fired; the drug traffickers reportedly exiled themselves to the south zone’s Rocinha favela and the north zone’s Morro do 18. Rocinha is due to be occupied next year.
The occupation of the Morro dos Macacos represents a landmark in the pacification process because it’s where a shootout between drug traffickers and police occurred exactly a year ago, and a police helicopter was downed, killing three officers. A total of 26 people died in that conflict. At the time, Rio had only four UPPs and state public safety secretary José Mariano Beltrame said he hoped the violence would be seen as Rio’s September 11.
Now only one favela in the area surrounding the Maracanã soccer stadium, where many of the 2014 World Cup soccer games will be played, has yet to be occupied: Mangueira, famous for its samba school.
Friday, children in the Morro dos Macacos romped on the caveirão, the police tank which the elite squad (BOPE) of the military police use to occupy favelas. In the spot that drug traffickers used for burning their enemies alive, dubbed microondas, or microwave, the BOPE set up camp and their command center. Not far from there, ten human skeletons were discovered on Oct. 18, in the drug traffickers’ clandestine cemetery.
Last week, the military police decided to make some top personnel changes and to return to the use of helicopters, in response to a wave of robberies targeting pedestrians and motorists. The helicopter fleet is composed of a mere three vehicles; in years past the police have found helicopter patrols to be exorbitantly expensive. One state governor tried back in 2002 to control crime using a dirigible, but it took only two months to retire the “Pax Rio”, as it was called. Monthly maintenance, according to O Globo, came to US$ 580,000, equivalent.
Rio’s civil police (who do investigative work, primarily) have also been making personnel changes, after the erroneous and near-fatal police shooting of a judge and his family at a roadblock. Press outcry criticizing the civil police’s quick response to that incident, in comparison to the corps’ unresponsive behavior after a wrongful fatal shooting of a favela resident, led Wednesday to a striking show of solidarity among the victims.
Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, a hotel investment consulting firm, said the Marriott purchase took place as a result of the expectation that Brazil will move up from number 8 to the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2016. Rio’s police forces, faced with the violence of drug traffickers and urban militias, are working hard to prepare the city for the Games. They could certainly use some help from Marriott, in concert with other companies which have been co-funding Rio’s favela pacification program, including Coca-Cola, Eike Batista’s EBX, Bradesco’s insurance arm, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the Brazilian subisidiary of British American Tobacco, Souza Cruz.