Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Brazilians Lose Home for the Sake of the Olmypics

This kind of situation breaks my heart! A favela near Maracana is being destroyed and members of the community removed to make way for buildings for the World Cup and Olympic games. Rumor is that they would like to build a parking garage.

In true form of lack of planning, the city of Rio de Janeiro has been knocking down houses here and there and everywhere. They have essentially made the entire area unlivable without providing proper homes for those they have expelled.

It has been acknowledged that some people may have "slipped through the cracks" of bureaucracy. I'm sorry but I believe that to be an extremely LARGE understatement. It seems more like the members of this community have all been shoved into a hole the size of the Grand Canyon.

Check out the video below posted by the Guardian. Not the best translation nor timing of subtitles but you get the picture. It is very powerful in Portuguese.

The most amazing thing to me is that this can be done in the first place. There is a law here stating that people have the right to the land in which they live if they have lived there for 5 years without being asked to move. Something tells me that said law could be applied to practically all the favelas in Rio.


  1. Wow. This is very sad. From the looks of the video, they just knocked down the houses and left.... It definitely seems that more notice could have been given seeing that the place is vacant of construction or clean up. My heart goes out to those in need.


  2. Some similar things happened in China for the games. Unfortunately at times the poor people get their voice taken away. Sadly it sounds that their lives have been turned into a crisis and diaster-- how do people have time to fight back? When they dont know when they are going to eat or where they are going to sleep? Everything they have is gone, come on we know that it couldnt have been organized. They people probably nearly found out a couple days in advance.

    Rachel always catches the news and posts it here! Thanks, things like this often are not found in the national or international news. (yes I know the video is from a british news, did you get it while looking up princess kate???)

    I am going to email UCL and the department on Urban planning, they have a program that specializes on favelas and slums.

  3. Rachel, Nina, Sara,

    Please keep in mind there are strict laws in Brazil to protect anyone living in any house, including a slum.
    God forbid someone "invades" your property overnight and builds a wooden shack! It will take years to have them removed legally.
    The reason I know that is because my grandmother has a small parcel of land she inherited from her mother and some folks invaded her land overnight and quickly built a wooden shack.
    It took my family 25 years to have them removed, plus, my family "had" to pay taxes on the land for 25 years, land that someone else lived on!!
    The only reason my family was able to get the land back is because the woman who invaded my grandmother's land with her family 25 years ago, died, her son's tried to sell the land and when they moved the furniture out, my aunt called the police and stopped the "new" family from moving in...!
    My grandmother is 87 years old now and was never able to enjoy her mother's inheritance, not a dime, he just worked hard all her life and paid taxes and lawyers in hopes to one day have her property back.
    Why doesn't the guardian interview someone like my grandmother? I am sure the slum in Rio where they filmed this video has similar victims behind the scenes.
    You can't just bulldoze houses and move people without long judicial processes, it just doesn't happen.
    A process was followed, nobody knocks down a house with a few days notice.
    These folks were sued in court years ago, they clearly lost because they couldn't produce land titles and had been living on someone else's land, received 18 months rent plus money to refund them for their houses.
    How does the guardian interviews a random guy in a slum without interviewing city officials, judges, community representative? Biased much? I think so, the guy is emotional and was controversial in many points.
    He was just speculating about what the city is planning to do with the land, he wasn't even sure.
    Maybe this particular slum is not even being demolished for anything related to the world cup.
    There is a general movement around Brazil for several years now to "END" slums.
    It is happening all over the place and not because of the Olympics or World Cup.
    Despite the romantic idea some people "paint" of slums, they are not a safe/clean place for people to live. There is no "official" electrical connections, creating risk of fire, no sewer, creating risk for diseases, they are usually built on hills without proper engineering and create risks of coming down with strong rains.
    Long story short, everyone benefits with the END of slums, principally the slum dwellers.
    Lula created "Minha Casa, minha vida" which means "My house, my life", the largest housing project in Brazilian history. There are BILLIONS of dollars budgeted to built decent and safe homes with proper electricity and sanitary conditions for poor Brazilians/slum dwellers.
    They can buy a house with no money down and pay as little as R$50,00 ( fifty Reais ) per month and have a title to their property.
    Sorry, but this guy sound controversial and not honest at all if you ask me.


  4. The evictions happening for the Olympics are being fast-tracked and not all the proper procedures are being followed. I have a good friend, head of Comunidades Catalisadores (, that is very involved in this issue, mostly working to see that favela residents have a voice in these proceedings.

  5. Ray, I have to agree with Corinne here. I know there are laws but I also know the pace of bureaucracy in Brazil...

    Nina, way to take action!!

  6. What do you want to expect from a cesspool like Brazil? And these monkies think they can be a superpower like the US...

  7. Corinne,

    You fast track a 25 year procedure all you want, you won't get anyone out of a slum in less than a couple of years.
    These people don't own the land the live on, they get money for rent in addition for money to buy a new property elsewhere.
    What are they complaining about? If it's 20 years in court or 3 years in court, bottom line is these people don't own the land where they built on and sooner or later they will have to move out!
    If the city is fast tracking to make sure they complete the infrastructure for the World Cup or the Olympic Games, good for them!
    Nobody will loose a property that belongs to them! If they are being kicked out is because they built on someone else's land and if that is the case, they need to go, period.
    I feel even better now that you told me they are fast tracking the procedings. GREAT! About time someone did it.
    Now, dam if they do dam if they don't!
    I see criticism against the Government that they are not moving fast enough to get ready for the GAMES, and now they are criticized for being too fast with the judicial proceedings to get everything done in time?
    We can't have it both ways!
    Either they are wrong because they are dragging feet or they are wrong for being too fast and I am sure if they didn't do anything they would be criticized to lack of action... :(

  8. Anonymous,

    What are you?
    The reincarnation of Hitler who joined the Ku Klux Klan?
    Craw back to the dark place you came from! Will you!

  9. If you loved your country, you would have never left it! I love hiprocrites like you!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Anonymous,

    How exactly does leaving one's country make the person love their country any less than the people who are fortunate enough to never have to leave?
    And how does that make one a hyprocrite?
    You make as little sense as you racist comment!
    I know who I am and I defend my ideas out in the open, not hidden cowardly under an anonymous mode!
    Why don't you show your identity?
    Don't want the mask to fall?
    Well, breaking news! Thanks to Gil's computer skills, I know exactly who you are!
    Too sad and pathetic if you ask me.


  12. Pathetic, eh? Agreed!

  13. I feel sad for the affected people but I have to agree with Ray on this one. Eminent domain is, has been and always will be an absolute power of the sovereign/government.

    Anonymous - Dude, go troll somewhere else.

  14. Greg,

    I totally agree with you, I also think it is sad for the affected people.


  15. Rachel -- time to step in and block the troll...

  16. As for the displced residents - there is no easy solution -- and no solution that will be forthcoming. Poor people get screwed, even when the government promises to help or when the "reason" is for the "common good."

    They would never displace rich residents in Gavea to make way for community improvements in Rocinha.

  17. Jim,

    Truth! I have to agree with you as well!
    Poor folks get screwed very often... :(

  18. Is Rocinha still considered a slum?

  19. Unfortunately, Eminent domain is supposedly based on the governments perception of "best use" or economics. In reality, it is based on the governmental pull or connections the party requesting the renovation has. Money=Power.

  20. Definitely. They have a lot of visibility, but they still lack city services and investment. They are thriving (relatively) because of the local residents organizing to do what Rio has never done for them.

    Most government action focuses on police intervention - not community support. It is VERY frustrating.

  21. Greg - here in Niterói we have a terrible traffic bottleneck that could be solved by an "eminent domain" action to take down a church (modern, not historic) that sits smack dab in the middle of the through way for the bridge to Rio. Do you think the city will EVER demolish the church? Even though every resident suffers from rediculous traffic delays?

    No way. Only the poor have to give up their lives for the "common good".

  22. Actually, now tht I think of it, the church would not have to be torn down. City planners want to build a double decked freeway ramp that would pass in front of the church (so their precious view would be obstructed). But the power of the church lobby prevents this from happening.

    Who is the lobby for the poor people in Rio who are losing their homes?

  23. Jim, I agree with you. The poor will always have less power than the rich. However here in Brazil, it appears all are subservient to the the church's domain! Wow.

  24. Sorry guys, I was away from blog life for a while.

    Jim, they won't kick out the rich in Gavea (even the ones built on illegal land) because they paid handsomely. Money will get you far...

    Police action? All I see them do is occasionally raid favelas for press and lean on their cars while pointing guns at people ;)

    As for the Troll. He/she was harmless and annoying. Obviously doesn't have a thought in their head. My comment for Troll is this:

    Yeah, Brazil wants to become the US because it's doing so well now. Rigghhhhttt. Plus it's easy to talk shit when you are hiding behind Anonymous you pussy. I bet you are 12 and your Mommy just got you a computer.

  25. Wow, what a firestorm of comments!

    I think everyone is missing the real problem, which is the lack of affordable/free government housing in Brazil. I think very few people build or live in favelas by choice. I would argue that most of the residents are honest, hard-working people who will break a law ("you can't build your shack here") before they will leave their kids without a roof.

    I agree with Ray that the favelas lead to many social problems in Brazil, both inside and outside (but mostly inside, for the residents). It's great that a couple of favelas (like Rocinha) have built up some infrastructure, like their own electric company and volunteer fire department (I think those are things that the blogger from Rocinha has mentioned), but the vast majority of favelas do not offer good living conditions.

    So I'm not totally against the government tearing down the favelas to help with the upcoming events. If that's what it takes to motivate the mayor, great. Because the reasoning is not only to make the city "prettier" for the tourists. It's to start to fix a social problem.

    It's just that if the city government wants to tear the slums down, they have to be realistic about the fact that thousands of people live there (whether illegally or not) and offer them some kind of alternative (which they should've offered in the first place).

  26. Danielle,

    I totally agree with you, the govenment needs to give them an alternative before knocking down a "favela" and I am under the impression that they are providing an alternative now with the "Minha casa, minha vida". The biggest issue now is that the misplaced residents are reluctant to move to another area, this is usually the core of the discussion.
    Folks in slums love nothing more than getting decent housing options, but the problem always ends up being that they want to remain in the same location, and the options given to them are rarely in the same location. The only exception I have seen is the "Singapore" project in Sao Paulo that knocks down a slum and builds apartment buildings in the same land.
    Many times the land being taken by the government is either on a steep hill with dangers of land slide or the land belongs to someone else, so the government ends up having to move those people to another area, that is when the fight starts...


  27. Jim

    I don't think any politician in their right mind would dare to touch a frigging "Church" :(
    Someone should go New York style on that church and make sure it burst into flames in the middle of the night :)


  28. Muito ridículo o seu comentário "Anonymous", você é um racista e deveria se envergonhar disso, chamar nós de brasileiros de 'macacos' não vai te fazer uma pessoa melhor ou mais inteligente, vai apenas mostrar sua ignorância, racismo e falta de vergonha na cara pra falar uma coisa tão cruel... Fiquei triste e decepcionado, você deveria pensar mais antes de falar...

    Sobre as moradias que estão sendo destruídas, ao meu ver o governo tem que dar assistência social a estas pessoas, e mostrar as opções para novos lares, como por exemplo 'o minha casa, minha vida', e ao meu ver... Bom pode parecer cruel.. Mas eu sinceramente não gosto de favelas, acho feio, perigoso e um lugar que mesmo com muita gente boa morando lá, os bandidos usam a favela pra se camuflar e praticar crimes horriveis... E ouvi dizer que mesmo com as upps ainda há o tráfico de drogas, então ao meu ver as favelas tem que acabar =P [e eu sei, que acabando com as favelas, não vamos acabar com o tráfico de drogas, mais vai diminuir a violência, ao menos ao meu ver.]

  29. BH has a program similar to the SP program Ray mentioned, called Vila Viva. I know someone in that project who was moved into a rental that was subsidized bythe city and then into a new apartment near the old favela location. She moved out of the favela late 2009 and just NOW moved into the new apartment. The rent subsidy was also months in coming. So, even though there is a mechanism set up to provide an alternative, it is often very slow.

    According to the Estatuto da Cidade, favela residents are applicable to file for usucapião urbano (the law Rachel referred to). However, it is also a bureacratic process and often it is difficult to gather the necessary evidence.

    Favela removal must always consider where are people going to go. The removal programs in the 1970's were unsuccessful in part because people were relocated to areas without adequate infrastructure or transportation. Many Rio favelas are decades old. It is not that easy to just demolish and move people. The favelas targeted for removal for the Olympics and World Cup are less estabished favelas (the poorest of the poor) and cannot mobilize against it.

  30. Corinne,

    That makes sense, less established becomes a target for easy removal...


  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  32. I just want to point out that most of these folks return to the favela after they've been removed and given an alternative home.
    I heard it a lot from my faxineira when I lived in Brazil. She is a favela dweller herself and had her house torn down for the construction of a viduct near Minas shopping. Upon being displaced, she was given a house in the area and only stayed in the house for a few months before moving back to the favela because she wouldn't have all the monthly bills we all pay. Also according to her, many other people go back to the favela because it's easier, and it's cheaper.
    I'm sure, many would like to leave the favela once and for all, but that's not always the case. Before the government takes anyone anywhere they have to educate people and pay these people decently for their work. Taking the uneducated out of the favela and moving them into a home in the city won't do without giving them means to support themselves won't do.

  33. I confess that my first reaction to this unfortunate anonymous troll comment was anger, but right after reading it, it turned to be pure shame for this poor soul, because only someone with very poor judgment, education, morals, knowledge and dignity would barf out such stupidity. This "person" (if I can call it a person) is nothing but an ignorant racist, probably someone with a shaken confidence about his own country.
    The TRUTH, like it or not, is that Brazil, slowly but steadily, is getting stronger and better in all aspects of life, while some countries traditionally perceived as world powers, day by day, are being left behind and showing stronger signs of a third world country.
    Some foreigners grow up with these dated preconceptions of Brazil, thinking the country is all about the rain forest, piranhas, anacondas and primitive people dancing in the streets, but when they land in Brazil, they see a lot of "surprising" technological advancements and a lot of Europeans traditions. Then they start to scratch their puzzled heads in a mix of confusion and annoyance because the fun of feeling "superior" towards the "monkeys" soon ends to be replaced by fear, that fear typical of the insecure and unintelligent expressed the same way this coward anonymous troll did here. Shame on you, troll, and get a life! By the way, the only cesspool here is in your stinky mind.

  34. I am not against tearing down certain slums, depending on the safety of the community and the geology of the area. But they cant just tear down people~s homes without providing a replacement.

    I am against just taking away their spaces like they are not humans and telling them to push off. But also minha casa minha vida is not really my choice solution.

  35. The rules for Usocapião here (concise, easy read.)

    I disagree with the notion that if those with certain means disobey the law then we should lower the standards for everyone else. This is wrong, we should move to apply the law equally to all. This is a long process, specially in a country so deeply plagued with this that one can argue it is part of Brazil's pas,t and present and somewhat still openly aceptable in present Brazilian culture.
    I remember the Goldman case
    such a terrible ordeal for a child to go thru, perhaps the best thing that came out of it though was that even a very influential family had to, in the end, surrender to the law.
    This is the road we should be on, regardless of how painful the journey it.

    I have doubts about Minha Casa Minha Vida. Honestly, after all the hoopla the past government made of this program how many people have actually been benefitted? What is the current housing deficit.
    I find it hard to believe that there are not better, more intelligent, creative solutions for this problem. I ask myself if, in a hillside community, a civil engineer specialized in drainage could not solve erosion problems. I am sure some houses would be torn down, but probably not many. Of those torn down perhaps relocating them in the same community, but this time putting them on contour lines, would be cheaper and better ( most dwellers work as near as possible to their homes, hence not weanting to leave).
    Other than that we should treat people, all people, like adults: pay your eletric bill, keep your home front tidy, and so forth.

    BTW, the troll was unfortunate, but why do people get so stirred up about such silly things (Brazil in comparison to the U.S, monkey this or that, etc)? I, for one, still plan on going to the zoo, with an American friend, and visiting the monkeys ( not "monkies", as written by anonymous: words ending in y, preceeded by a noun, form their plurals normally). Sorry for being a geek ;-).

  36. Yeah Gritty, I'm on the fence with Sean and I doubt that his Father was all perfect. For me it was more about how he, super father, was willing to rip his son away from the only father he really knew after his mother just died. There's a lot of back story there and I don't really appreciate Gringa's one sided story.

    As for the rest, you have a point.

    Nina, exactly!

  37. I read the original article which provides more details found here: thus why I always prefer the newspaper to the broadcast news. Anyway, the issue isn't that they are being moved... (well it is of course), but as Ray said it wasn't like it happened overnight, and there is always a back story they are after all squatters. The issue is how they have moved these people. They have gone in and left a horrible mess, damaging the homes of those who have not been relocated yet (like the guy they interviewed). And the halfway broken down homes that were left by the crap job done, is being inhabited by crack addicts and the like... making the whole Favela unlivable for those who are waiting for the relocation.

  38. Of course there is a back story, but like you said, they haven't done the process correctly. It's still quite sad. Even squatters have some rights...