Antonio Scorza / Getty
There's a lot more to Brazil than just soccer, bikini waxes, and Carnivale. For example, slums. The poorest shanty towns, known as favelas, are home to 11 million people and very few city services. And what residents lack in running water, toilets, electricity, and access to food they make up for with drug lords and one of the world's highest crime rates.
So it all balances out.
So one could go from thinking of Brazil as a year-round Mardi Gras to picturing it as a lawless hellhole -- especially if you've played the Favela level in Modern Warfare 2. Shit, you know things have gone south when your town gets its own FPS multiplayer map.
The Brazilian police are really serious about keeping Brazil's poorest neighborhoods from becoming a real-life violent video game. While your local neighborhood cop drives around a shitty Crown Vic, Brazilian forces drive around in fucking tanks:
"It corners like Chief Wiggum."
That is Rio's Batalhao de Operacoes Policiais Especiais, or BOPE. Their badges don't have some stupid star on them -- they look like Hell's Angels badges.
Alexandre de Souza, Millitar Police
Although once you start seeing it as a skull with pigtails, you can't unsee it.
BOPE policemen have to pass a training regimen similar to what Navy SEALs and Green Berets have to go through, extensively training in urban warfare operations. And despite their intimidating presence, BOPE officers are only a part of a larger pacification program, and they consider themselves the bringers of peace. For example, it took 3,000 officers and soldiers to clear the bad guys out of the 80,000 strong Rocinha slum.
Vanderlei Almeida / Getty
"We got the perp, but his clothes didn't survive the encounter."
That's 3,000 personnel with tanks, snipers, helicopters, and months of planning for what basically ended in an internal military occupation.
And it worked. When BOPE and their tanks leave, the Police Pacification Unit takes over. These guys are part police, part social workers, and they're there to keep the drug thugs from returning, and to help make the favelas a little more livable. And those guys don't leave. So far Rio has pulled off pacification operations 30 times in 30 different neighborhoods, each now guarded by their own police force.
Christophe Simon / Getty
Otherwise known as "army."
Still, we're going to go out on a limb and recommend that 2016 athletes stick to the Olympic Village during the games.
AFP / Getty
Africa is a big place. Assuming that the whole continent is in a constant state of any one bad thing is like assuming that all Americans wear cowboy hats and play for the NBA. Focus in on Somalia, on the other hand, and most of us have a pretty specific picture of life on the ground. Pirates! Warlords! Drought conditions! Anarchy! It's like Mad Max or, well, any Hollywood movie set in Africa.
AFP / Getty
Those bullet suspenders are gonna pinch like hell once the kid starts shooting.
Conditions are so bad in Somalia that both the U.N. and the U.S. have been unable to help ... twice. If only someone would come along to clean up the mess.
Someone has come along -- someone called Africa. Specifically, the peacekeeping arm of the African Union.
Sia Kambou / Getty
Otherwise known as "all the flags."
You could fill a library with books, diagrams, and Web comics trying to explain the situation in Somalia, but in a nutshell, the country suffered under the control of warlords, thugs, and ne'er-do-wells for most of the 1990s. Between 1992 and 1993, the U.N. and the U.S. tried to step up to the plate and get bellies fed. You probably remember the results of their efforts in the form of Black Hawk Down and footage of American bodies getting dragged through Mogadishu. It was not a good time. By the mid-2000s, a new group of al-Qaida extremists were in charge of Mogadishu and people were starving again.
But this time around, the U.N. and U.S. helped through the brand new African Union, a federation of 54 African states created to confront AIDS, malaria, drought, and bad guys running lawless states. Beginning in 2007, troops from Burundi, Nigeria, Malawi, and Uganda pledged to help out, while Tanzania offered to train newly formed Somali troops. It took a while, but within four years, the A.U. kicked the bad guys out of Mogadishu and are now in the process of driving them out of Somalia altogether.
AFP / Getty
"License and registration?"
This wasn't the only success of A.U. forces, either. They staged an Omaha Beach-style invasion of Anjouan Island in 2008, sending rebel leader Mohamed Bacar off the island and fleeing for his life. They were also the only peacekeeping troops in Darfur until 2007, when the U.N. finally got involved. Hell, why can't Bono raise money for these guys?
For more countries we wouldn't want to screw around with, check out 6 National Anthems That Will Make You Tremble With Fear and Fun Size Countries: The Insane Histories of the World's 6 Tiniest Nations.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Works of Propaganda That Prove Dictators Suck at Photoshop.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why you should probably stay away from Mounties also.
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