Safety comes at a price in Gardênia Azul, a flatland slum in the scruffy west end of Rio de Janeiro. Newsweek reports the area is patrolled by “the militia”, a self-designated neighborhood police force that runs things with an iron heel and a hand in everyone’s pocket, taking a cut of all local business and services. No one is fond of the militia, which is often the corrupt twin of legitimate law enforcement with rogue cops acting as judge, jury and occasionally executioner.
But to millions of people trying to get by in some of the meanest streets in the hemisphere, life involves hedging your bets by grabbing at whatever safety net you can. Cariocas, as city natives are called, light one candle to Cristo Redentor, the Art Deco Christ watching over Rio from the mountains, and another to the caveirão, the armored car police use to raid the outlaw favelas. And since neither authority has been up to the task, now the Cariocas are turning to the market. Lately the market is booming.