Brazil Boosts Security in “Pacified” District

July 22, 2014

Latin American Herald Tribune, 7/22/2014

Brazilian authorities on Monday strengthened security in a cluster of Rio de Janeiro shantytowns that were officially pacified four years ago after decades as a bastion of drug traffickers.

The additional police presence follows a violent weekend.

A police officer was wounded, two vehicles were burned and a police base was attacked on Sunday night by suspected drug dealers who evidently were acting in reprisal for the death of a young man during a gunfight and the jailing of one of their associates, Rio state police said.

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Brazil’s ‘Quilombo’ Movement May Be The World’s Largest Slavery Reparations Program

July 11, 2014

Roque Planas – Huffington Post, 7/10/2014

When Luiz Pinto was growing up, his parents wouldn’t let the family talk about slavery. The issue raised ugly memories.

Pinto’s grandmother was born into slavery. She threw herself into a river before Pinto was born, taking her own life after the son of a wealthy, white landowner raped her. The subjects of slavery and racism became taboo in the Pinto household, a sprawling set of orange brick homes perched on a hilltop where Rio de Janeiro’s famed statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible in the distance through the trees.

“I only knew her from photographs,” says Pinto, a 72-year-old samba musician.

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In Brazil, Pacification Paves Way For Baby Steps To Democracy

July 8, 2014

Catherine Osborn – NPR, 7/7/2014

As World Cup travelers in Brazil flock to Rio de Janeiro for the tournament’s final, many are staying in newly pacified favelas, or low-income neighborhoods.

Among the most popular is Vidigal, which rises up a steep hillside over some of Rio’s most scenic beaches and offers some of the city’s most beautiful views. A government program to drive crime from the historically violent slum has attracted entrepreneurs and investors and also nurtured a step toward democracy.

It’s a Tuesday night at the entrance to Vidigal, and than 100 people have gathered at a forum to debate the recent changes in their community.

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Visitors are finding a World Cup home in Brazil’s notorious favelas

June 27, 2014

Andrea Crossan – Public Radio International, 6/26/2014

That’s how favelas have become a unexpected alternative for travelers. The neighborhoods are some of the poorest in Brazil, but in many cities they sit near richer areas and popular tourist sites. Now some of them are housing tourists who want cheaper beds and a more authentic Brazilian experience.

“It’s just the most unique sort of grassroots experience you could have in Brazil,” says Hannah Bratton, who’s staying at The Maze Inn in Taveres Bastos, a favela perched high over Rio de Janeiro. “I’m able to speak with Brazilians who live here and have grown up here for all of their lives.”

Bratton traveled to Brazil from Rhode Island. She says she knew it would “cost a pretty penny” to see the World Cup, and the cheaper rates at The Maze Inn were important. But she’s most excited about the side of Brazil she’s getting to see. That includes playing with the local kids who fill up every spare minute with games of soccer.

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Dispatches from Brazil’s World Cup: ‘No one lives here anymore’

June 16, 2014

Dave Zirin – The Nation, 6/15/2014

Favela do Metro was once a community of 700 families living a five-minute walk—just up the Rua São Francisco Xavier—from Rio’s legendary Maracanã Stadium. Now it’s a couple of storefronts and a tonnage of rubble. All of the 700 families are gone, uprooted by a World Cup agenda that looked at their homes and envisioned parking lots for the Maracanã. Even that was too much for city planners, as the parking lot has yet to be built, with the World Cup already underway. Perhaps it will be ready for cars by the start of Rio’s 2016 Olympics. When I asked one of the former favela residents, hanging around a food stand, to explain the delays, he said, “If they can’t finish the World Cup stadiums, do you really think they care about this place?”

Instead, all around are empty lots—case studies in demolition, with the jagged remnants of what were once people’s homes there for all to see. There are dolls with missing heads and limbs, couches without cushions and razor-sharp exposed springs, and a sink leaning precariously on a mountain of wood shavings. The owners’ memories have become someone else’s garbage. On one wall is spray-painted, “What happened to the families? No one lives here anymore.”

Theresa Williamson of the NGO Catalytic Communities, providing translation, told me the story of what happened to the favela’s former residents. The first 100 families evicted by the city—in November 2010, just after the 2016 Olympics were awarded to Rio—were forced out in a chaotic rush. Without any time to consider their options or organize any kind of collective response, they were shuttled out at gunpoint, and resettled in Rio’s far west zone, two hours away from their former homes. It was a violent eviction, and the first to gain any kind of international media visibility.

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Brazil activists question favela policing

August 12, 2013

Paula Daibert – Al Jazeera, 08/10/2013

Almost one year after a “pacifying police unit” was established in Rocinha, one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest slums, questions are being raised over whether or not the state presence in an area formerly dominated by drug gangs is improving life for the local population.

Raquel Rolnik, professor at the University of São Paulo and UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, told Al Jazeera that special police units (UPPs) are a part of a broader policy aimed at preparing Rio for the World Cup and the Olympics.

“UPPs have mostly been implemented in favelas near the richest areas of the city. Rio’s urban project stimulates real estate investments,” she said.

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Focus on Indigenous peoples’ rights and police violence in Brazil

August 5, 2013

Amnesty International, 08/05/2013

Indigenous peoples’ rights and police violence are the focus of a High Level Mission (HLM) by Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Salil Shetty, this week in Brazil.

He will be meeting with top politicians and officials to discuss an array of human rights abuses and violations which need to be addressed.

“Given the deep stated commitment of the people and Government of Brazil to realising all human rights of all Brazilians and its growing importance on the international stage, it is imperative that Brazil takes concrete steps to improve the state of human rights in the country,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

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Poor, middle class unite in Brazil protests

June 28, 2013

Paula Ramon – CNN Mexico, 06/28/2013

During the past two weeks, millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets to protest years of dissatisfaction and discontent with their government. What started as a student mobilization transformed day by day to incorporate professionals, the middle class, and residents of the favelas, or slums.

All are joined in protest against the administration of President Dilma Rousseff, though their motivations may differ.

Some 6% of Brazilians live in the favelas, according to the 2010 census. These mountains of bricks, rising in intricate forms, border the country’s largest cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Hospitals, schools, security and an end to police abuse are the principle demands from this social sector.

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Nine killed in Brazil slum violence

June 26, 2013

Al Jazeera, 06/26/2013

At least nine people, including a police officer, have been killed in the Nova Holanda favela in Rio de Janeiro, authorities have said.

Authorities said on Tuesday the deaths occurred following a gun battle between police officers and criminals taking advantage of protests sweeping through the city to loot and steal.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Adam Raney, reporting from the favela, said he saw blood splattered on the walls of the homes of the dead.

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It’s just the beginning; change will come

June 20, 2013

Theresa Williamson – The New York Times, 06/19/2013

Despite improvements in economic growth and reduced inequality of recent years, Brazil suffers from horribly inefficient public services, thanks to corruption and the lack of political will to prioritize their proper delivery. Transportation, education and health care are woefully inadequate. For example, though Brazil spends 5.7 percent of G.D.P. on education, two-thirds of Brazilian 15-year-olds are incapable of more than basic arithmetic. Brazil spends about 9 percent of G.D.P. on health, yet ranks lower than comparable economies in Latin America on infant mortality, life expectancy and a range of other indicators. All this while we spend $20 billion on the World Cup, more than the past three World Cups combined.

Transportation has been the banner of this movement and rightfully so. It represents mobility in the most literal sense. Rio and São Paulo have some of the highest bus fares in the world.

The largest protest so far was in Rio de Janeiro on Monday, where grave misspending in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics is rife. At least $27 billion will be spent on the Olympics, all in Rio. The authorities’ city “plan” is taking advantage of the mega-events to institute policies under the guise of “integration” and “poverty reduction.” In reality, however, they are fueling the expulsion of the city’s low-income groups, especially residents of the city’s favela communities to the urban periphery. Many of these favelas are thriving neighborhoods that have provided centrally located affordable housing to people for decades.

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