On Sunday November 20th one of Brazil’s largest media corporations, Rede Record, was in Laboriaux filming for their hugely popular TV show Balanço Geral. They followed one of Laboriaux’s best known residents, Carlão, as he describe what the issues and what the major problems are. Balanço Geral came to Laboriaux at the request of persistent local residents and in light of Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes recent comments that the City is going to reinitiate its drive to evict Laboriaux’s residents. This time the City’s strategy is slightly different and may prove more effective. Paes has announced that half of Laboriaux, all of the homes and small businesses on the side of Rua Maria do Carmo (Laboriaux’s main street) that face Gávea, will be removed. This is perplexing to residents because the City has been silent on this issue for over a year. From April 2010 to August of 2010 Laboriaux’s future was in serious peril and total eviction seemed almost certain. By September of 2010 it seemed that the tremendous pressure residents mounted had succeeded in changing the City’s eviction plans. Only a handful of dedicated and skeptical residents continued to believe that this issue would resurface, and indeed it has. This time it is coming directly after the move to install the State’s 19th UPP public security program in Rocinha.
The UPP process is distracting the media and most residents from the fact that hundreds of people in Laboriaux are facing forced eviction.
We believe that the other side of Laboriaux (the side of Rua Maria do Carmo that faces Rocinha and São Conrado) will soon be evicted as well. Indeed, a well known resident and owner of Bar do Belo, Alberto Martins, told Mundo Real that “it makes little sense on the part of the City to remove one side only.” He continued, “this is just a way to divide people and soon, without a doubt before the Cup (World Cup in 2014), they will return to remove the my side of Maria do Carmo.” In a few instances this divisive strategy seems to be proving a success. Mundo Real asked one resident and small business owner, who lives and works on the side of Rua Maria do Carmo that isn’t currently marked for eviction, what he thought. He said, “This will be good thing, because my view (panoramic view of Rio de Janeiro) will greatly improve.” Perhaps this small businesses man is forgetting that 50% of his business would also go with the evicted residents. This type of attitude is rare but does exist.
One thing is certain, Laboriaux is slowly but steadily being demolished and little is being done to stop this.
Just as troubling as the City’s plan to evict hundreds of resident’s from Laboriaux is the fact that they are leaving the ruble behind from the houses they demolish. We have seen this before in other communities that they have been destroying, like in the Estradinha section of the Trabajaras favela in Botafogo (Which is also “pacified” – watch video here). More than just a demoralizing eye sore – that lowers moral and pushes many residents to actually want to leave their community rather than live in ruble – the wreckage is also breeding grounds for diseases and squalor, especially dengue and a noticeable increase in rats and roaches.
Not surprisingly, on Tuesday November 22nd the City must have gotten word about the Balanço Geral Report, because there were about a dozen workers in Laboriaux clearing up the exact wreckage Record and Mundo Real had reported on. It is sad but typical that it takes pressure from the media to make the authorities do what they are legally obliged to do anyway. Of it must be said, the media in Brazil, is anything but progressive. Record is however, a major rival of Globo, and there is significant political wrangling going on right now between Rede Record and the candidate(s) they support for the upcoming Mayoral elections in 2012, and Globo, and the Candidate(s) they support. This might explain why Record covered a story that usually would not have gotten their attention.