Adventures of a foreigner in the south of Brazil.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Security in Brazil, take two

I have my own bank account now in Brazil. Why? Imagine the following scenario: A flash abduction where somebody holds a gun to your head and takes you to the next ATM in order to get some cash. You have a credit card on you, one that's especially blocked for withdrawing cash. This is not normal here, so who is going to believe you? Now you're in front of that ATM, guy with a gun next to you and you have a card but cannot get cash.

Sounds like a bad idea? It does, and consulting with people who are more into this I had that confirmed. So I have a bank account now with a bit of money in it, specifically to act as a blind in case of an abduction. There are some other aspects of convenience to it, but this is the real reason. The next obvious question is, does putting this on a blog compromise the purpose? No. Flash abductions are a crime of opportunity, the low-hanging fruits. Getting a bit of money quickly from a local account serves the purpose. A prepared abduction aims for higher stakes, and a blind account is of no consequence here.

Lesson for visiting foreigners: If you have any card on you in Brazil make sure you can get money on it, and make sure it's not much. Take a second means of getting money to the country and do not carry it around.
A note on flash abductions: A flash abduction is a Brazilian speciality so they can cheat on their statistics and end up on rank 3 instead of 2 in abductions world-wide. Flash abductions, i.e. anything that is a few hours and not a few days is not counted as an abduction here. Now I, along with most people I know, regard somebody holding a gun to your head and taking you to a place you don't want to got as an abduction, but not so in Brazil. This sport is rather popular here, too.
A note on bank accounts: It turns out the mysterious proof of residence can be an electricity bill. You will also need written proof who your parents are. Us wicked foreigners do not always have that on our passports. So you can't just tell the bank, but they will accept an official letter from the Policia Federal. Which they will give you, no problem. Now, care to guess how exactly the Policia Federal knows who my parents are? Exactly. I told them.
Another note on crime statistics: I did a bit of research on published statistics that I could share. Helpfully, the Brazilian government publishes crime statistics. Until 2002. And you cannot access them. The only thing I found is that in the 1990s and 2000s São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro were numbers 1 and 2 in homicides world-wide. Porto Alegre came on ranks 15 and 12, respectively. Counting just up to Porto Alegre Brazil has the dubious honour of having 6 of the 12 most homicidal cities world-wide in the 2000s.