Rio street vendors suffer as beaches close

Published March 21, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Agence France-Presse 

Street vendor Jorge Martins plods the fine sand of Ipanema as he tries to sell the last of his caipirinha cocktails to tourists before Rio de Janeiro’s beaches shut down against the coronavirus.


From Saturday, when a decree by state governor Wilson Witzel comes into effect, Rio’s iconic Ipanema and Copacabana beaches will be off-limits to sunseekers.

Empty beaches seem unthinkable in Rio’s year-round sun, but the numbers of beachgoers have dropped significantly in the last week after Witzel deployed Civil Defense workers with megaphones to urge people to stay away.

Still, Martins was giving it one last go before Ipanema becomes a no-go zone: “Caipirinha, Caipirinha!”

“As long as I can, I will continue to come here and try to sell cocktails. I still have not thought about what I will do when it is no longer possible,” Martins told AFP.

For people like him who depend on informal work for their livelihood, with no social welfare safety net, the federal government announced a monthly allowance of 200 reals (around 40 dollars, 37 euros) until the end of the crisis.

But that’s just one-fifth of the minimum wage.

“What am I going to do with that? That’s barely enough to buy bread,” said Martins, who has spent the last 32 of his 55 years working on the beach.

According to the latest official statistics, compiled before the pandemic, nearly 12 million Brazilians are unemployed, more than 11 percent of the country’s population of 210 million.

And some 40 percent of the working population work in the informal sector.