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Aug 19, 2016 630

Instant Pot

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Officially, Robson sells Caipirinha drinks to tourists on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.

But his more lucrative livelihood, he says, is stealing from foreign tourists distracted by the sun and surf.

Robson, unidentified from Rio favela

Robson says he and his friends rob tourists for cash and valuable belongings. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

"Pickpockets are around, tourists are here, they don't pay attention to their belongings, cellphone, money, all that, so we steal them," he says.


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Robson, a 32-year-old who calls himself a robber and wouldn't give his last name, says he's been working Copacabana beach for the last three years.

He comes from Mangueira, one of Rio's poor favelas, "a very poor community, and the state doesn't offer job opportunities," he says.

"Tourists come to the beach with a lot of money and I just steal from them."

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Does he feel any responsibility for the unwary people who lose their wallets, their phones?

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Clip: 'Everybody robs in this country.'0:11

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"No, I don't. Everybody robs in this country. The mayor robs, the governor robs, the president robs. Everybody robs. I`m just one more."

Robson says the Summer Olympics in Rio presented a big opportunity for him and his friends. He claims he's made 20,000 reais, or about $7,600 Cdn, from thefts since the Olympics began two weeks ago.

"In one day, we have from 50 to 100 people robbed here on this beach. I don't mean Brazilians, but foreigners, the gringos. We don't steal from Brazilians."

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Clip: Robson brags about the number of people robbed in one day0:17

Crime is a constant drumbeat in Rio de Janeiro. Violence in Rio's favelas has ratcheted up this year, with a reported 756 shootings and 50 deaths in the month just before the Olympics.

At the beginning of August, Mayor Eduardo Paes promised that Rio would be the safest place in the world to visit. Brazil installed up to 85,000 security officials for the Olympics.

According to Crossfire, an Amnesty International project, 15 people have been killed and 33 injured in shootings since the Olympics began. Shootings are reportedly double the average in the last few weeks.

In an interview with CBC Thursday, Paes discounted the reported threats and robberies of athletes, delegates and visitors to the city.

"The problem of Rio is violence but it's not as people say. The fears have gotten much less and these are safe Olympics."

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