National Geographic : 2012 Oct
• dressed in church clothes: a short-sleeved yellow shirt and black nylon dress pants. When he's not preaching, Fabio chases down men with flip-flops and cracked toes to sign them up for construction-worker training class- es. at's a big step for people who, in Rio terms, were lixo, human garbage. Now companies aren't afraid to hire them. ere's more respect. But it's still not luxurious living. Signs at Santa Marta's entrance warn of dengue, and "high up there it's only sorrows," says Fabio, pointing to the shanties on the hill, beyond the reach of social programs, where some still cook outside on open res. to an economic puz- zle involving low wages, poor public transport, a weak state, and income distribution about as fair as a tin-pot kleptocracy's. "It happens in the whole world, but I would say here the dose was greater," says José Mariano Beltrame, state sec- retary of public security. Beltrame is a principal author of the "paci- cation plan," meant to occupy the slums and push out the gangs with a force of some 12,500 paci cation o cers in 165 communities by 2014 for the soccer World Cup. Beltrame hopes to leave behind a functioning civilian state with a legal economy a er the Olympics in 2016. Many citizens with high hopes believe Beltrame is the rst security chief who is not corrupt. He's not from Rio either; his accent---and the gourd of maté tea tucked under his desk---is the mark The experiment was set in motion in No- vember 2008, when special operations police invaded the slum, a collection of brick and cin- der block houses rising like a rickety skyscraper threaded with footpaths ascending 788 steps along a steep incline below the famed Christ the Redeemer statue. Unlike your usual Rio police assault on favela drug dealers---a bloody hit-and-run using armored trucks known as "big skulls"---a contingent of 112 "paci cation o cers" arrived in Santa Marta that December and stayed to restore order and evict the gang. Then the government built brightly colored apartment blocks and installed new electrical service along with 700 free refrigerators. ese days, the place is overrun by film crews and such red carpet visitors as Madonna and John McCain. (Many Brazilian tourists visit too, o en entering a favela for the rst time.) Brother Fabio used to be part of the problem. Bornintheslumin1973,hegrewuptobeahit man with the nickname "Bananeira" because he reminded people of a banana tree, walking the favela steps on his hands with his feet splayed in the air. He found faith with the help of a local nun, but full reform didn't happen overnight. "I believe in gradual repentance," says Fabio, ashing white teeth as he restrains two pit bulls that live on his roof. He looks like Mike Tyson Antonio Regalado writes about science, technology, and culture. David Alan Harvey's take on North Carolina's Outer Banks appeared in June 2012. e are guinea pigs," declares Fabio do Amaral, a drug-gang killer turned evangelical minister. Brother Fabio preaches at a church in Santa Marta, one of Rio de Janeiro's favelas. What he means is that the citizenry of Santa Marta is part of a plan to clean up the hillside slums for the 2016 Olympics. By Antonio Regalado W ''