HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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14 December 2009

Caçando elefantes brancos no Rio de Janeiro




Caçando elefantes brancos no Rio de Janeiro

Chegamos com dificuldade à terra dos elefantes brancos. Essa terra é longe do centro, um satélite orbitando o planeta carioca. Saímos da Zona Sul, distraímos com as paisagens incríveis de Ipanema, Leblon, Gávea e São Conrado pela costa Atlântica do Rio de Janeiro. Dia de sol, lindo. Pegamos um engarrafamento infernal na ponte que laça a Barra de Tijuca ao mundo carioca. 


Para chegar a essa terra plana com grandes lençóis de água o caçador intrépido pode escolher entre vários métodos de transporte. Pode chegar de barco, kitesurf, kayak, surfboard, jetski ou montando numa sereia. Nenhum desses jeitos funciona. Pode chegar de avião privado, helicóptero, balão de São João, free jump, etc. Se não tiver dinheiro, criatividade ou coragem para isso, pode também chegar de ônibus ou de carro. Alguns dizem que algum dia chegaremos de metrô.

O transporte terrestre é caracterizado por vias elevadas, túneis, afunilamentos, carregados de carros e ônibus privados. Todas as estradas parecem sofrer ate chorar com o menor acidente ou incomodidade. São nossos filhos mal educados. Se um acidente de três carros destrói uma tarde de trânsito, imaginem o efeito de três ônibus queimados e bem localizados. É fácil demais isolar a terra dos elefantes brancos.

Depois de uma meia hora, o trânsito ficou livre e fomos voando sobre os cinquenta metros de largura de Avenida das Américas a 90 km por hora, olhado a paisagem. Passamos em seguida por: um shopping gigantesco, lojas de autos, condomínios, árvores nas ilhas medianas bem gramadas, uma estátua da liberdade, lojas de autos, estrada boa sem buraco, Hard Rock Cafe, mais dois shoppings, condomínios, lojas de autos... repete. Os morros da maior floresta urbana no mundo nos encostavam com sua franca beleza. O mapa não identificou o país em que dirigíamos.

Tentando pular a linha amarela, vimos nosso primeiro elefante branco (inmovilus ambominavis). Tínhamos ouvido rumores que essa besta omnivora frequenta cada vez mais essa região. Ele é enorme, tem aspecto sonolento, ignorante, manifesta brutalidade e estupidez. Passamos depressa, evocando seu nome com tonalidade tronante – ci-da-de-da-mú-si-ca. Elefante mudo, mãos de cinco polegares rasgando o chão, tomando a paisagem. 

Passamos por centenas de animais até então pouco conhecidos no mundo científico. Eles eram altos, projetando sombras gigantescas ao mar (residencialis miamenses). Alguns deles eram azuis, com milhares de olhos, outros eram rosa ou multicoloridos, mais baixinhos, quadrados, tontos. Cada um projetou suas raízes concretas na profundidade do subsolo, procurando água doce, estabilidade, senso. Eles têm a tendência de se reproduzir mnemonicamente sem cansar. Quando as pessoas passam perto deles, desaparecem e só saem embrulhadas em metal e plástico. 

Viramos à direita na Avenida Salvador Allende e nos lembramos d 11.09.1973. Vimos gente esperando o ônibus que a cobra asfaltada engoliu. Passamos à beira da lagoa. Paisagem linda, pantanosa, úmida, frágil. Não havia mercado de frutas, nem casas particulares...mais um ponto do ônibus cheio. Ao lado equatorial da avenida estacionavam, estalavam, esgazeavam blocos de ninhos, alguns mais completos que os outros, esperando os pássaros migratórios chegar.

- Olha só!

- Onde?

- Lá ao lado da lagoa! O elefante branco! Cadê a câmera?

- Olhe que elefante moderno, elegante! Você acha que ele está tomando água da lagoa?

- Porra ‘tá sim, e muito! Você deveria ver o esgoto dele! Até que têm cheiro de dinheiro esbanjado.

- Você acha que ele é perigoso? Morde?
 
- Sim, morde, morde forte, mas têm jeito de acalmar.

- Qual é o segredo?

- Ele gosta de papéis pequenos e azuis, com um peixe num lado e um romano cego no outro. Ele gosta mais dos recém-tostados. Quando você lhe oferece três ou quatro, pode se aproximar por algumas horas. 

Seguimos. Viramos á direita na Avenida Embaixador Abelardo Bueno. Logo depois, nos assustamos com a presença de um mamífero sem tamanho, sua pele cinzenta descuidada, os cabelos de seu nariz quarentão mal barbeados, pentelhos demais, unhas pintadas de grafite. Paramos. Ouvimos a grito particular dele. Sacamos as maquinas lentamente, ficamos quietos em meia sombra. A cada quatro minutos sai de seu intestino menor, se não me engano, o som de um piloto profissional (pilotus piloto) trocando marchas em alta velocidade. 

Entramos em uma comunidade estabelecida por um grupo de pescadores sindicalizados há quarenta anos. A estrada não pavimentada obrigou o carro ir muito devagar, o que abriu a possibilidade de apreciarmos a tranqüilidade do lugar. Ao nosso lado árvores parcialmente ofuscavam a pele do elefante. Seu som nos perseguia. Seguindo a estrada, a vista do lago nos pegou intermitentemente pelas portas abertas das casas humildes. Paramos o carro debaixo de uma bouganville cheia de flores. 

O Elias atendeu ao nosso toque da campainha com a abertura lateral da sua pesada porta de madeira. Os cachorros Mel e Preta lhe obedeceram sem discussão audível. O quintal da casa encheu o ar com fecundidade. Da porta de casa para trás, vimos o lago lambendo o terreno dele e de sua mulher baiana, Inalva.

A Inalva nos acolheu sentada no seu sofá, num estado doente, alerta e lutador. Na sua mesa estavam os livros Conflitos Ambientais no Rio de Janeiro e A luta por moradia e a política urbana no rio de Janeiro. Essa classe de livros é fundamental para quem pretende caçar elefantes na região.

Passamos horas lá, na sua casa construída por eles mesmos à beira da Lagoa de Jacarepaguá. Pelo menos eu não ficaria surpreso em ver um jacaré entrar pela água atrás da casa. Conversamos sobre os planos do governo de aumentar a alimentação do elefante desmatador com a idéia de treiná-lo para ser a grande atração num circo de cinco cones daqui a seis anos. Quando sedentos de tanto falar, o Elias trouxe água de coco gelado. Também café. Também almoço: polvo com arroz, salada com hortaliças do quintal, licor de banana. Qualidade de vida altíssima, tranqüila, quase soporífica. O elefante gritou de novo, o piloto voava sobre o melhor pavimento do país a trinta metros de distância e a trezentos kilômetros por hora.

 “Viver aqui é uma escolha ideológica,” pontuou Inalva, em seguida, continuar:  “Os treinadores dos elefantes querem os lugares mais bonitos da cidade para eles comerem e crescerem. Seus elefantes são guardam o patromônio. Não sobra nada para as pessoas em seu entorno.”

Inalva continuou, “O Eduardo Paes [prefeito do Rio] lançou sua carreira politica com o discurso de ‘limpeza social’ tentando nos tirar daqui ‘93. Hoje nos chamam ilegais, sujos, poluição visual, clamam que nos maculamos o meio-ambiente. Eles empregam qualquer forma de violência para nos tirar de nossas casas e construir lugares de consumo que danificariam muito mais o lugar em todos os sentidos.”

Com carinho e angústia, agradecemos aos nossos anfitriões e voltamos pela estrada, sabendo que a luta contra os elefantes será dura, cansativa e com resultado previsto. Eles estão chegando de longe, em marcha inexorável, nem pensando em se adotar a cultura local. Antes que o circo chegue, os donos do poder farão tudo que for preciso para o bom desempenho dos elefantes: dar-lhe-ão terreno, comida e treinamento. Para isso precisarão reformar o território e o uso de solo de cima para baixo, para tirar dos de baixo por cima, aplicando o choque, calando bocas, evitando discussão.

De volta à terra carioca, encontramos mais um elefante. Dessa vez, vimos um elefante mal formado, mal alimentado, de proporções estranhas, desabitado, fechado, cabisbaixo. Ele ficava na sua gaiola, esperando alguém lhe explicar teorias existenciais. Absorto em seus pensamentos inúteis, lhe deixamos lá, rodeado por estradas boas, condomínios autoritários, shoppings, e outros tipos de animais cada vez mais presentes naquela região.  

07 December 2009

Interview with Al Jazeera

Interview with Al Jazeera
4 December 2009
Rio de Janeiro

AJ: Al Jazeera
CG: Christopher Gaffney

AJ: What is taking place on the ground here as you see it in relation to the Olympics and the World Cup?

CG: In regards to the Olympics especially, I think they are reforming territory in order to put the projects in place. This involves rezoning, redesigning infrastructure, and creating an Olympic City – that is a very limited vision of the city. In order to build projects, in order to get tourists to come, you have to build infrastructure. That is what is going on right now, they are preparing the ground.

AJ: Right, and in this preparing the ground, you have denounced things that are taking place, could you tell us a little bit more about it?

CG: There have been some laws passed by the city government that have reformed the plano director , the master plan for the city of Rio, that have happened through unconstitutional processes, without public audiences, that have rezoned strategic parts of the city and set off a series of real estate speculations without taking into account the people that live there already. Most of the targeted areas are poorer communities that are threatened with forced relocation in order to allow the real estate projects to move forward.

AJ: And these forced relocations, would you say there is a pattern, how generalized are they?

CG: There is a pattern that happened during the run up to the 2007 Pan American Games when members of the housing commission would come through communities and try to cadastrar or register people and households, saying “we’re here to register your houses” and then the next week would come back and say “ok, now that you’re registered we know you’re here illegally and it’s time to remove you.” If you want to go peaceably we’ll give you a check for x amount of Reales and you can be on your way. In the Canal de Anil, they forcibly removed sixty families in 2006 in preparation for the Pan American Games. These people had rights and title to their territory but were forcibly evicted.

AJ: Right, how may people are we talking about in this case for the Olympics?  

CG: Certainly in the hundreds if not one or two thousand people. I’m not sure how many people, I know that 30 communities have been targeted by the city as targets for removal or at least identified as “areas of concern” in relation to the new zoning laws in relation to the Olympic project.

AJ: As we were talking about before why are people not organizing to prevent this from happening?

CG: The people in the communities are trying to organize. There’s a lot of co-option that goes on of course, clientelist politics in Brazil are still very much alive and well, and then the hegemony of the media outlets prevents the story from getting out there. The forces allied in favor of the Olympics are quite strong and those against it almost nil. There are social groups organizing but they have very little coverage in the general media.

AJ: And we saw that because of the violence taking place here almost all the time but now with the Olympics coming I’m sure they’re doing loads of things to improve the situation but I’m sure there’s going to be other consequences in terms of speculation, I don’t know if you could tell us a little about that aspect as well. Not in terms of human  rights and other controversial aspects along the way to making things peaceful but what can we expect in terms of other consequences?

CG: There are many other types of violence that are also going on. The mere threat of being removed is a kind of violence and then there’s the actual act of removal. People are already experiencing the threat of forced relocation which is causing considerable stress. People have to take time out of their ordinary lives in order to mobilize with the same intensity as the forces that are mobilizing against them. This is quite a different level of fight for an individual or a small community versus say the International Olympic Committee which has money, a strong bureaucracy and political clout. We can expect that these dislocations will probably happen and will probably happen with violence that will be resisted, but in the end the dislocation will be carried out. In the end, around 30 communities will lose the rights to part or all of their territory in the Olympic region in the southwest part of the city.

AJ: And more generally, the Dona Marta favela and other “pacification” projects aren’t going to be part of the Olympic project are they?
[Dona Marta is a showcase favela in Botafogo. It has been occupied by BOPE (shock troops) since 2008. Madonna made a visit there last week].

CG: There will be tourists going there now as part of their Olympic experience and now that it’s “pacified” it will be a protected area. Every place that becomes pacified, controlled, settled, becomes then fair game for part of the project.

AJ: Is that part of the Games?

CG: It’s part of a generalized project to make the city safe for capital.

AJ: Can you tell me a little bit about that? What is the plan and how are they going to achieve it, basically?

CG: The plan, as with any Olympic city is to create infrastructure so that capital can arrive and circulate fluidly. That includes tourists, information infrastructure, media centers, people arriving through airport infrastructure, moving people thorough the city via metros and bus systems and private Olympic lanes. Part of the pacification programs, such as the BOPE occupation of morro Dona Marta, Pavão-Pavãozinho in Copacabana and trying to settle things down in the Complexo do Alemão is to make the city safe for capital. This is unabashedly the project of the governor, the mayor, Lula, etc…this is the Olympic project in Brazil – to make the city a market, to put it in the shop window. If you can have places in the Zona Sul on the mountainside with beautiful views where tourists can go and have a nice bed and breakfast while they go to the Olympics or World Cup, that’s also part of the project.

AJ: Is there already real estate speculation?

CG: We have seen real estate speculation in Dona Marta already. If it’s peaceful and it’s close to beautiful areas, people want to live there and you’re going to see a rise in rents. That pushes people who lived there in the first place because they needed a cheap place to live close to centers of employment, that rise in rents pushes them further out. A generalized “settling” of the favela in Rio will then dislocate that poverty somewhere else and as long as that poverty is not in the Olympic city, fine. They become forgotten. The real estate speculation in Barra de Tijuca and Jacarepaguá is part of the larger civilizing mission of the Games .

AJ: Do you think that the erecting of walls around the favelas is problematic?

CG: The strategy is problematic for a number of reasons. One, it’s penning people in, it’s animalizing a class, it’s criminalizing poverty. By walling someone in you’re limiting their ability to move freely. Of course, aesthetically no one wants to live next to a wall. Secondly, the rationale is that the favela is destroying the environment, that be erecting the wall, they’re preserving the environment. If they want to preserve the environment, they should put social services in, have water and sewage and trash collection – this would be preserving the environment. Building condominiums with a highly consumptive lifestyle in a fragile wetland in Barra de Tijuca destroys the environment much more than people living on a hillside or a favela expanding into the Floresta de Tijuca. Of course, every human settlement has its environmental impact, but a highly consumptive lifestyle in a car dependent landscape creates another level of impact where people are, just by their mere existence, destroying the environment more.

AJ: Can you talk about the method by which Rio is going about taking over these places in the city? How does this process work? What are the critical steps they are taking?

CG: The emblematic person for this process is Rudy Giuliani who was here in Rio yesterday and has been employed as a private consultant in the lead up to the World Cup and Olympics. The “zero tolerance” policy that he implemented in New York criminalizes ordinary behavior, but only in certain areas of the city. The idea that by enforcing the law with maximum authority, you create a situation by which those who can afford to evade the law or have knowledge of ways to avoid it, or those who create the law themselves, don’t have to obey it – so in the end you are further criminalizing poverty. This is what happened in New York and is what is happening here as well. There, you had a massive real estate boom because poverty and “disorder” was pushed away from Manhattan into smaller and smaller areas of the city where the “zero tolerance” policies were rigidly enforced. So Manhattan island becomes a massive area for real estate speculation and a global symbol of consumption. That is the idea here with the “Choque de Ordem” that Eduardo Paes has instituted. The more you can isolate and contain certain groups and their undersirable behaviors, the more real estate is going to rise in the south of Rio, in what is becoming an increasingly limited Olympic City.

The major problem for me with the Olympic planning is that it only touches a very small segment of the city. The imagination of Rio is this: the beach, beautiful mountains, Christo, futebol, samba, etc. but there is a whole other world of Rio that exists beyond that imagination that also needs to be included in the project. This lack of inclusion is accomplished by pushing people out, or conducting what the call a faxina social or social cleaning, and that is how these communities feel they are being treated. Step by step, moment by moment, that is what is happening to the point that now you can’t even drink a coco on the beach. For me it’s not a whole conception of the city. It’s dealing with little pieces that you can target, isolate, and exterminate and to me it’s complete violence against the poor.

AJ: Who benefits from this violence?

CG: The beneficiaries are real estate speculators, private security forces, wealthy merchants, bullet proof car manufactures, arms dealers. Military spending will increase.  Oglobo will benefit from selling the idea of fear, real estate speculators and security companies will benefit by selling condominium compounds far from the “poor parts” of the city. We see this in the United States, one of the most fearful societies in the world, that faces no real threats but people are scared continually. When there is not a threat you have to invent a threat. The threat here is the poor: the dirty, poor person that is going to steal your purse on Copacabana – that’s the threat. The people who live with the daily violence are the poor, not the middle and upper classes. They have violence touch them from time to time but it’s not …they’re the people gaining from that violence.

AJ: Is the drug problem being used as an excuse?

Yes. The drug problem is being used as an excuse, but the drug problem is also a problem. It creates violence within the favelas. It creates separate worlds within the favelas. Most people that live within the favelas are lower middle-class people living in communities that have been there, in some cases, for a hundred years. They’re not criminals, they’re just working people who want to live in a place that is close to where they work. The traffic is stimulated by those who have money for recreational drugs. There’s this link between extreme poverty and extreme wealth that circles around itself in Brazil and this drives all kinds of social, political and economic relations. It serves the police, it serves the traficante, it serves the upper-middle class kid going to the disco with his little bag of cocaine on the weekend, it feeds real estate speculation and car sales in Barra and there’s no real exit from it. The mechanism of capitalism and the mechanism of democracy in Brazil are such that these processes are interlinked and mutually re-enforcing. The World Cup and Olympics are only going to exacerbate the problem.

AJ: Is there anything else you would like to comment on?

CG: Yeah. I think that transportation and the issue of mobility are fundamental. The major problem that I see with both the World Cup and the Olympics is the issue of mobility in the city. In order to get from the Baixada Fluminese to the Center of the city or Zona Sul to work have to travel two hours, one way on a bus or non air conditioned train. One of the most frequent protests you see in Rio is either the burning of a train or the burning of a bus. This is a tradition that goes back to the nineteenth century, when people would burn forms of transportation in order to protest a hike in fares, poor travel conditions and things like that. Transportation here is fundamental. The plans in place for the Olympics do not link any part of the Olympic city, this Olympic ring, to the North, where the majority of the people in the city live. Or the West which is the fastest growing area of the city. The idea is to create specific Olympic lanes within existing traffic infrastructure. So for the three weeks of the Olympics, they are planning the transportation for the next fifty years and the idea of not linking the metropolitan region through effective transportation is serving to isolate and fragment the workforce. Where you are condemning people to live far from places of employment without mechanisms to get there and so you are keeping a workforce docile and immobile by limiting their transportation options. This is a form of violence equal to any other that needs to be addressed in a hurry before these plans really take off.

AJ: It sounds like a really bad idea for Rio to host the Olympics.

CG: The Olympics are never good things for anybody! This is the great myth of the Olympics. Who wins with the Olympics? Barcelona is the paradigmatic example of a brilliant Olympics but it transformed the city into a tourist spectacle. Barcelona lost a lot of its character it lost it’s working class population in the middle of the city. It turned into a city to be sold somewhere else and not a city to be lived in. Atlanta was a disaster, Sydney and Homebush Bay was a nightmare, Beijing, nem falar. The Olympics come around every four year and put an authoritarian regime in place. In Brazil the Olympic Authority is going to direct a budget of 30 billion Reales and it’s a parallel government and has not democratic responsibilities. They are in charge of planning the city for the next fifty years without consulting planners. The Olympics is three weeks. The Olympics brings a lot of money and reshapes and reinforces the spatial dynamics of the city for a long time.

AJ: Thank you very much!

04 December 2009

Big Football Sunday in Rio de Janeiro

This is the most important weekend of football in Rio de Janeiro in many, many years.

Rio de Janeiro has many dozens of professional teams, but four major clubs: Botafogo, Fluminese, Flamengo and Vasco da Gama. This is the final weekend of the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, or Brasileirão.

Botafogo is in the relegation zone, playing at home against Palmeiras (São Paulo). If Botafogo wins, they escape relegation. If they lose, they go down to the second division for the second time in five years. In addition to being the team with the most draws (14) they are widely perceived to be the team most harmed by bad luck, poor referring, and general levels of incompetence on the part of club management (despite receiving a massive subsidy from the city for their stadium contract). Palmeiras is three points off the title chase and win might give them the title if other results go their way. They will come with everything they have especially since they were leading the competition by six points six weeks ago, have spent hundreds of millions on transfers, and have very little to show for it.

Three months ago, the odds of Fluminese falling to the second division were 97%. Since the return of their talismanic striker Fred, they have won ten league games on the trot while getting to the final of the Copa SulAmericana. Flu sit one point ahead of both Coritiba and Botafogo and a draw will be enough to keep them in the Brasilieirão. Fluminese plays Coritba for the right to stay in the first division. After losing a heartbreaking final to LDU of Ecuador on Wednesday night they might not have the spirit to stay afloat. If they fall, Rio’s oldest club might not return to the first division for some time.

15Fluminense45371112144855-7
16Coritiba4437128174759-12
17Botafogo44371014135057-7
18Santo André4137118184557-12
19Náutico3837108194870-22
20Sport3137710204867-19
Flamengo are the unlikely story of the 2009 season. In August, they sat in 12th place with not much hope of reaching a continental competition. Since the inclusion of the 37 year old Dejan Petkovic in the starting lineup, week in week out, Flamengo have been the best team in Brazil. Petkovic has been brilliant, combining with ‘O Imperiador’ Adriano and Ze Roberto for some memorable goals. Flamengo idol turned manager Andrade has pulled all the right strings and is about to bring a massive party to the Maracanã.

Flamengo is in first place by two points chased by Internacional of Porto Alegre, Palmeiras and São Paulo. If Inter win and Flamengo lose, Inter will be champion. Problem for Inter: Flamengo is playing Grêmio of Porto Alegre, their arch-rival. Last week the fans of Grêmio began to chant ‘entrega’ to their team, meaning: lose the game intentionally, giving the title to Flamengo so Inter won’t win. It appears that this is going to happen and that a Flamenguista title is a fait accompli.


P
Equipes
PTS
J
V
E
D
GP
GC
S
1
Flamengo
64
37
18
10
9
56
43
13
2
Internacional
62
37
18
8
11
61
43
18
3
Palmeiras
62
37
17
11
9
57
43
14
4
São Paulo
62
37
17
11
9
53
42
11


Rio’s soccer fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years. In recent years, Fluminese fell as far as the third division, Botafogo was relegated in 2004, and Vasco was relegated in 2008. Flamengo, with the largest fan base in Brazil (if not the world) is disputing the title for the first time in 17 years. A Rio team has never won the championship in the era of pontas corridas (running table of points). This in itself speaks volumes about the management of football in this city.

The seasons of Flu and Fogo will be a success if they aren’t relegated. Vasco was champion of the second division and will be retuning to top flight football in 2010. Flamengo is probably going to waltz into the championship because Gremio is going to abria as pernas (as they say) so that their cross-town rivals have no chance at the title. One victory, two escapes?

It’s going to be a big futebol Sunday in Rio.

01 December 2009

The Battle for the Vila Autódromo






Rio de Janeiro
December 1, 2009

Not everyone in Rio de Janeiro is excited about the 2016 Olympic Games.

Residents of the Vila Autódromo, on the shores of Lake Jacarepaguá, gathered on a recent Sunday afternoon to launch an international campaign to save their community. They are mobilizing against the forced removal of their homes in the face of development projects for the 2016 Olympic Games. The Resident’s Association of Vila Autódromo is sending a petition to President da Silva and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, demanding that their constitutional and human rights be respected.

Within 24 hours of Rio’s conquest of the 2016 bid, mayor Eduardo Paes made quite clear that the Vila Autódromo would be demolished to make way for the Olympic Media Center. Since then, the city council has enacted several zoning laws making exceptions to city law in order to stimulate real-estate investment in this booming region of the city. The Vila Autódromo has long been a target of developers and their resistance to forced relocation has been a particular annoyance to the mayor.

The community meeting gained a national profile through the presence of Edson Santos, Special Secretary of Politics for the Promotion of Racial Equality. Secretary Santos, previously a Rio city council member and federal deputy, was surprisingly sharp in his criticisms of the 2016 Organizing Committee noting that the promise of the Olympics had set off a boom in real estate speculation that was destined to turn the Barra de Tijuca region into a new Copacabana. That is, a formerly bucolic setting with disperse settlements of fishermen is designed, in accordance with new zoning laws, to become congested with condominiums and shopping malls in anticipation of the Olympic Games.

Inalva Mendes Brito has always been at the forefront of the community’s struggle to secure their constitutional rights. She penned a letter of protest outlining the resistance of the Vila Autódromo against forced relocation, a battle the community has been fighting since the 1990s. It was her invitation that brought Secretary Santos from Brasilia to Jacarepaguá where he encouraged the community to “create a restrictive environment” for the municipal government to act through protest, occupations, and organized resistance. “Rio can’t pay the bills for the kind of speculation that brings profit to the few,” the Secretary continued, “to what city does the Olympics belong?”

The forty residents attending the meeting enthusiastically received the Secretary’s comments, while organizers circulated through the crowd making sure that everyone had signed the petition.  Children ran about in the playground where a high wall marks the edge of the Autódromo Nelson Piquet.



Once the Secretary had signed the petition, Sra. Brito and Altair Antunes Guimarães, president of the Residents Association of Vila Autódromo, took turns invoking their constituency to action. “Without the constant force of the community, we will lose this battle,” intoned Guimarães. This echoed Secretary Santos’ thoughts, “This is not going to be easy, the forces aligned against you are powerful. However, it is not acceptable to forcibly remove a community of peaceful, working people.”

The battle for the Vila was nearly lost in 2006 when the Secretary of Housing marked all of the community’s homes for demolition. The community lived on because of political pressure from a minority of council members and a supposed lack of funding. The majority of the residents have legal land title and a community history that extends back to the mid 1970s when the Autódromo was constructed.

The project to remove the Vila Autódromo is but one of several forced removals underway in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. In addition to the Vila, the communities of Canal do Anil, Gardênia Azul, Parque da Panela, Metrô-Mangueira (near the Maracanã) e Belém-Belém (near the Engenhão) are also under threat of forced relocation. The city government has made critical (and unconstitutional) changes to the plano director (master plan) of the city, allowing gross exceptions to zoning laws that have set off a real estate frenzy in the Jacarepaguá and Port regions.

The city has also begun the process of occupying strategic favelas with shock troops. This is causing other kinds of problems, such as gun battles in the streets, burning buses, and the closing of commercial zones.

There are 6 years until the Rio Olympics. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are myriad problems with hosting a mega-event, the majority of which the city, state, and national governments appear to be content to ignore in favor of advancing private interests, city marketing, and imposing temporary solutions to Rio’s grave problems with physical, economic, political, and social infrastructures.

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