Brazil has taken the world stage when it comes to locations where organizations are expanding operations. With fast-growing mining and energy opportunities, Brazil is an attractive location for multi-national companies. The upcoming sporting events position this South American nation squarely in the spotlight.
The dangers and risks of operating in Brazil were discussed during a recent webinar that was part of a series on medical and security concerns in the BRIC countries. I was joined by Myles Druckman, M.D., Vice President, Medical Services, Americas, International SOS; Nicolau Chamma, M.D., Occupational Health Medical Director, Americas, International SOS; and Alex Puig, Regional Security Director, International SOS and Control Risks.
Travel risk in Brazil varies between medium and high risk zones, but overall the travel risk for Brazil is medium. There are often high risk areas located within medium risk cities which make it paramount for travelers to be aware of local geography and avoid high risk areas. In addition, business travel is most often to São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, which are the most populated areas of Brazil. While high crime rates are usually restricted to favelas (shanty towns) violence can easily spill over to adjacent roads and neighborhoods.
Crime in Brazil often occurs in urban centers and is primarily petty and opportunistic. Brazil has the fourth highest kidnapping rate in the world, with express kidnapping occurring most frequently. Express kidnapping is a short-term abduction in which criminals abduct victims to receive a quick payoff from the affected family or business, or the victim’s ATM card. And like many countries, traffic accidents are the number one cause of death in Brazil.
Social unrest in Brazil can be triggered by disputes over labor, socio-economic issues, indigenous and environmental issues. Recently anti-corruption demonstrations have become more frequent.
The socio-economic landscape of major Brazilian cities is unique. Favelas are economically depressed and often lack basic services due to population density. The availability of illegal firearms in these areas can turn a petty crime into a lethal attack. Social unrest in Brazil occurs over labor disputes, anti-corruption rallies, landless movement in rural areas and environmental and indigenous issues. Activists hold demonstrations that can lead to stone throwing, burning tires and setting up illegal road barriers. During these events, foreign personnel are unlikely to be singled out, though traffic is disrupted.
A lack of familiarity and knowledge about the environment in Brazil makes a traveler the most vulnerable to petty and opportunistic crime. It is important to obtain information about Brazil before arriving to understand the risks and how best to mitigate them. Once in Brazil, it is best to always monitor and remain abreast of the issues in your locality.