There is a wry saying about signing up with the United States Armed Forces that goes something like this. Join the Army. Meet interesting people. And kill them.
But it cannot have been the intention of Brazil’s Tourist Board to have promoted Rio de Janeiro this way: Get away from it all. Experience Rio. And get mugged.
Indeed, when marketing Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s national tourism agency typically focuses on the city’s world-class beaches, samba-filled music scene and caipirinha-fuelled parties. Violent crime is rarely listed among the attractions.
But in an embarrassing social media gaffe this week, the Brazilian Tourist Board (Embratur) accidentally shared a critical Instagram post from a tourist who did not enjoy her stay in the so-called “Cidade Maravilhosa,” or Marvellous City.
“I just spent 3 days in Rio with my family, and in those 3 days my family and I were robbed, and my 9-year-old sister witnessed a violent robbery,” Instagram user “Jade” wrote in an Instagram Stories post. “I can’t recommend a visit to a city where I felt afraid of even leaving the apartment.”
Embratur deleted the shared post on Wednesday. It said in a subsequent statement that “sharing (the post) was a mistake.”
Subsequently, some Brazilian wag shared this on Instagram the day after Jade posted her denunciation of Rio. “Got mugged by six dwarves last night. Not Happy!
But it failed to cheer up the mortified agency which added glumly that it had worked hard to promote a nationwide fall in crime in 2019.
Safety concerns along with inconvenient flights, poor infrastructure and high costs have long held back Brazil’s tourism industry, which lags its South American neighbours.
As news of the mistake went viral, Jade, who identified herself as a Brazilian living in Europe, said in another Instagram post that she hoped “the person (at Embratur) doesn’t get in trouble, we all make mistakes.”
But she defended her original post. “If I don’t feel safe or comfortable somewhere, I’ll share it,” the unrepentant muggee said.
For a nation that gave the world Pele and won the World Cup the most times (5), Brazil felt pretty maligned to have its criminal credentials burnished for all the world to see.
It wasn’t fair, the much-maligned nation brooded. Crime was actually everywhere: it was a universal phenomenon.
In America, for instance, the perfect crime was getting caught and then selling your story to television. In Malaysia, on the other hand, crime did not pay as well as politics. It was also the place where money launderers were, and still are, filthy rich.
It was only in Germany and Singapore where crime was minimal and that was only because it was against the law.
In the end, it might all be relative after all. An escaped prisoner camping out in the woods was an open and shut case because it was a clear sign of criminal in tent
Murder was a crime but describing murder wasn’t. Sex, on the other hand, wasn’t a crime but describing sex, in puritanical countries at least, was.