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AfroReggae Succumbs to Threats

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I saw on the Jornal Nacional that AfroReggaehas been threatened with extinction.

AfroReggae is one of the most respected and highly subsidized civil society groups in Brazil — it is sponsored by Globo, Globosat, Abril, and Multishow, which provide it with plenty of publicity and public relations clout. It is an admirable showcase for progressive social tourism, encouraging the integration of the hillside with the ashphalt — second only to the USAID-subsidized Viva Rio in this respect.

Now, however,

The cultural group AfroReggae announced it would abandon its activities in the Alemão shantytown complex in Rio. According to leaders of the NGO, the decision is a response to threats from drug traffickers.

Portas fechadas. As of Saturday, 350 children and youth will no longer take part in the art classes offered by AfroReggae in the Alemão complex. The NGO will cease operating in the community. The story was broken  by Veja magazine.

This after, the  executive coordinator of the NGO explained the decision: He said he had been threatened by traffickers.

“They said that if we stayed open they would blow us up and kill the people on the scene. Foi dito que se estivesse aberto iriam explodir e iriam matar as pessoas. The possibility of someone throwing a grenade at an AfroReggae activity and killing innocent bystanders is significant and we cannot be irresponsible enough to let this happen,” said José Júnior, executive director.

AfroReggae offers classes in dance, music, and theater in six  Rio de Janeiro communities. In the Alemão complex, the  NGO has worked since 2001 to try to alter the reality of residents through art.

The NGO also has a history of mediating conflicnts involving traffickers in order to avoid violence. That was the role it assumed, for instance, during the occupation of the Alemão by law enforcement in 2010.

Now, José Junior has an accusation to make. According to him, the pastor Marcos Pereira, of the Assembly of God of the Final Days, arrested in May and charged with raping parishioners, is behind the threats. The NGO coordinator  says the problems began when he began denouncing the pastor’s crimes. He accused the pastor of having close ties with the drug trade.

“He is the intellectual author of various atrocities that occur in Rio de Janeiro,” said  José Junior.

Last  Tuesday, the building that housed an AfroReggae youth hostel for visiting students was burned down.

A man was arrested at the scene and charged with have started the fire, but he denied the accusations. The police await the results of a crime scene investigation before reaching a conclusion.

The attorney of Marcos Pereira said the pastor, who is currently in jail, can answer the accusations against him by AfroReggae.