Graduate documenting corruption in Rio de Janeiro

Andrew Fishman is taking on corruption in Rio de Janiero, fighting back with Brazilians’ own words.

The alumnus created Rio Radar to spark conversation about public security in the South American capital. Fishman aggregates stories told in Portuguese and translates the interviews into English, aiming to be bias-free by seeking individuals with opposing viewpoints.

Fishman, a 2010 graduate, funded his project by winning the Shapiro Traveling Fellowship from GW in May 2010.

The original plan was to write and publish a research paper about crime and corruption plaguing Rio de Janiero.

After arriving in Brazil, Fishman learned there were other groups of researchers covering the same topic and they were reporting with much larger monetary funds and staff. Fishman quickly adjusted, realizing his one-man band couldn’t compete with well-funded research groups.

The website serves to cover the entire spectrum of opinions and commentary on security issues and changes in Rio de Janeiro. The site focuses largely on the Police Pacification Units who are entering the historically crime-ridden streets and favelas to clean up the neighborhoods in anticipation of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 summer Olympic games.

“My target audience is foreigners, although most of my turn out I think comes from Brazil. It’s for people who have an interest in Rio and in their security policy and the things leading up to the games. The idea is to kind of get a ground level view and let them kind of enter into the conversation that is happening,” Fishman said.

Long before starting his website, the innovative alumnus was just another student looking for the perfect abroad experience.

“I got this grant through the Department of Education. They gave me $4,000 to study in Florianopolis, Brazil,” Fishman said. “While I was there I decided I wanted to find a way to come back.”

When Fishman returned to GW he began what would be a two month long process to complete the application for the Shapiro Fellowship, meeting with over a dozen individuals including Fulbright scholars, professors and experts in order to finely craft the perfect application.

“You work on a proposal for some kind of research project that you want to conduct internationally, or you can do it in the United States and you have to basically show that you know what you’re talking about, that you have some background in the field,” Fishman said.

Fishman was full of past international experience. He previously interned at the Institute of Brazilian Issues and wrote his senior thesis on security policy in the U.S. and Columbia.

Fishman plans on trying to continue blogging when he returns to the U.S. next week and hopes to become involved in the more policy driven aspects of reform.

He does admit the comforts of home will be a nice change from his Brazilian way of life.

“It’s going to be lame, but I’m looking forward to pizza and pho noodles and Chinese food,” Fishman said.

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