Rio’s Favelas Take A Hit

File March 29, 2011
Background Information: The Pastoral Das Favelas, one of the leading organizations in defending the rights of Rio’s favela residents, hosts bi-monthly meetings to keep city residents abreast on developments in government efforts to evict community residents. Participants take this opportunity to share bits of information, and get a handle on what’s going in different parts of Rio. This week’s meeting was held at the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, however meetings are also held in each of the 14 affected communities.

On March 29, 2010 Nilson Bruno Filho, the first black man to serve as the Head of the Defensoria Publica (DPO) for Rio de Janeiro, relieved Attorney Roberta Fraenkel, from her duties as the Coordinator of the Center for Land and Housing (NUTH). His justification for this move was that he held Fraenkel personally responsible for the protest in front of the PDO on February 25th of 2011. During the controversial protest the doors to the PDO were blocked by armed Military Police. It was the first time in Rio’s history such aggressive action was taken. As a result, the public was barred from entering the PDO to voice their concerns regarding the forced evictions taking place across the Rio’s marginalized communities. As a result, a vigorous manifestation sprouted at the entrance of the PDO. Although Attorney Fraenkel neither participated in planning, nor attended the protest, she was vengefully, and spitefully fired because of it.

Fraenkel’s “supposed” involvement in the protests provided Filho, and his cronies Eduardo Paes and Sergio Cabral, the perfect political pantalha, to fire the dedicated public servant. To fire her without justification would be “unprofessional,” but this event gave Filho enough ammunition to pull the trigger, and guaranteed there would be no negative political backlash towards his decision. Filho’s decision doesn’t come as a shocker to Mundo Real’s news team, and concerned citizens, considering Paes and Cabral’s obvious displeasure with Fraenkel, and her work with marginalized communities. The belief is that Fliho will now replace Fraenkel with someone more sympathetic with the aggressive reshaping of Rio de Janeiro.

During a recent meeting with Fraenkel, the look of concern was unmistakable. She was visibly shaken, but her concern was more for the future of Rio, rather than her own career. Fraenkel has confirmed the fears of many when she commented on the hundreds of favelas that are systematically being evicted, and the reality this practice will continue, with no end in site.

NUTH, established in 1989, one year after Brazil’s Federal Constitution became law, has been fundamental in slowing down city, state and private sector initiative’s drive to evict thousands of favelas dwellers across. Their team attorneys, including Alexandre Mendes and Adriana Britto, along with 25 legal aides, work tirelessly to help Rio’s favela communities, which are currently facing land and housing rights’ abuses.
Unfortunately, because of NUTH’s effectiveness Nilson decided to reduce the number of interns to around 10, hoping to significantly limit NUTH’s reach. Nilson’s timing is impeccable. Carnival season is over, and the hoopla surrounding President Barack Obama’s visit have subsided, giving Nilson the perfect window to make his move.
Nilson has promised to substitute Fraenkel, but fear is that her replacement will most certainly be someone who is willing to do Nilson’s bidding. However, insiders are convinced that Nilson is not the puppet master, more so the puppet, as he is increasingly doing the bidding of Paes and Cabral.

Still, Nilson is considered a skilled politician using his status as the “First Black” to his advantage. It is clear that Nilson has been cozying up with Rio de Janeiro’s power elite, to the detriment of the public he swore to defend, and the office he runs. But everytime he is called out on selling out the PDO, Nilson cleverly plays the race card saying he’s had to overcome intense racism and prejudice along the way. He says that because of his struggles he understands the pain of the people and that his detractors are the real oppressors.

Though critics cannot detract from Dr. Nilson’s success, they are crticial in his use of a powerful red herring/Ad hominem arguments to distract the public from the facts. This gimmick is wearing thin, however, and as one community leader joked during the last Pastoral das Favelas meeting, “Safados não tem cor,” loosely translated as “Jerks don’t have a race.” One thing is certain; this is a very tense moment for NUTH and the favelas it has loyally defended.

Stayed tuned as Mundo Real will keep posting updates as events unfold.