Rio proposes mugging tax from tourists to help them
RIO DE JANEIRO ,Dec8:The mayor-elect of Rio de Janeiro is promoting a new idea to bolster tourism in his crime-plagued city: levying a new tax on tourists, then using the proceeds to reimburse visitors who are mugged.
The mayor-elect, Marcelo Crivella, a right-wing evangelical Christian gospel singer who was elected in October, floated his call for action this week at a luncheon with business leaders. Mr. Crivella, who will take office on Jan. 1, said his “bold proposal” could be funded by assessing a new tax on airplane tickets bought by tourists.
“Rio de Janeiro cannot continue treating its tourists as if they were an afterthought,” Mr. Crivella, 59, told the audience, emphasizing the need to “shatter” Rio’s “negative image.”
“This is something we need to discuss,” he said.
Less than four months after the city hosted the 2016 Olympics, political leaders in Rio are scrambling to deal with a rash of problems. Riot police and protesters clashed this week over proposed austerity measures. The former governor and his wife are in prison on graft charges. And parts of the city resemble a war zone, particularly with the crash of a police helicopter during an antidrug operation and a harrowing wave of arson.
Still, some here expressed dismay about Mr. Crivella’s idea of taxing tourists, a considerable source of income in a city short of cash, especially since the proposal would effectively involve tourists reimbursing themselves for possessions lost in muggings.
“Creating such a tax makes no sense, unless the aim is to discourage tourism in Rio de Janeiro,” said Mário Beni, a scholar of the global tourism industry who has served on the United Nations’ World Committee on Tourism Ethics.
Rio still draws pleasure seekers from around the world to its beaches, forested parks and Carnival celebrations, even though some visits here end in tragedy.
This year, an Argentine woman was killed in a knife attack on Copacabana Beach. In a separate episode, an assailant shot a Polish tourist at a beachfront campsite on the edge of the city. Police officers fuming about unpaid salaries emphasized the risks of such crimes in recent protests at the international airport, hoisting banners that proclaimed “Welcome to Hell.”
While the state government is largely responsible for policing Rio, Mr. Crivella, who is not only the incoming head of the municipal government but also a high-ranking bishop in the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, one of Brazil’s largest megachurches, campaigned on a platform of improving deplorable public services.
Reacting to Mr. Crivella’s idea of taxing tourists, the comedian José Simão joked that crime was so rampant in Rio that other sources of funding might be needed. “They’ll have to manufacture money!” Mr. Simão proclaimed on Twitter.
In the event that Mr. Crivella is serious about his proposal, others wonder why tourists should receive special treatment when Cariocas, as Rio’s residents are called, bear the brunt of violent crime in the city.
“I was in the room when he proposed the idea,” said Alfredo Lopes, president of Rio’s hotel association and its convention and visitors bureau. “The first thing that came to mind is, ‘If you’re going to reimburse tourists, then as a citizen of Rio, I want my reparations, too.’