Update On the Forced Removal of Favelas In Rio de Janeiro: April 28, 2010

On Wednesday, April 21st 2010, Community leaders and residents of several slums in Rio de Janeiro met with public defenders, engineers and architects, leaders of non-profit organizations, representatives from the Pastoral de Favelas, and at least one journalist from the São Paulo newspaper Estadão.

April 21st assembly of the favelas/slums facing removal

The meeting was the first Assembly that included all of the favelas/slums facing the constant threats that Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes and his administration have made to remove all residents in “areas of risk.” Approximately 400-500 people were present for this meeting, which was aimed at uniting the various communities in their struggle against Eduardo Paes’ plans for immediate an complete removal.

After presentations from representatives of each community, public defenders and others in attendance, there was a vote and a unanimous decision was reach to maintain the fight for their homes, their communities and their rights. The following strategy was decided:

  • Fight against ‘total removal’
  • Base the political struggle, initially, on an event to take place on APRIL 30th, at 10 AM in front of Rio de Janeiro’s City Hall in the city center
  • With the help of a public defender, and various social movements, challenge the illegal acts carried out by the Mayor and the Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro (Sérgio Cabral), by uniting the affected communities and proceeding in a united manner against forced removal.
Maurício Campos evaluating GEO-RIO's "technical report"

Maurício Campos, an engineer, and member of the nonprofit Network of Communities and Movements Against Violence, spoke to the crowd. An associate of his, an architect and representative of Rio’s Architects Union also addressed the crowd. They reinforced the illegality of the actions being conducted by Mayor Eduardo Paes. They raised serious questions about the credibility of GEO-RIO’s “technical report,” which was based exclusively on photos and produced BEFORE the rains and landslides. They warned that this ‘flawed research’ and the way it was presented as ‘professional geotechnical field work’ could seriously discredit GEO-RIO, an institution once highly regarded, and which Maurício had collaborated with in the past. They also highlighted the arrogant and indeed “terrorizing” behavior of Eduardo Paes’ administration, especially the attitudes of Rio’s Civil Defense, as they showed up at the doorsteps of family’s houses demanding that they leave immediately (without telling them where to go or how), threatening the use of police force in the future if they resist, and spray painting the doors and walls of resident’s homes.

Houses spray painted by the Civil Defense – marked for removal

On Tuesday, April 27, community leaders from Rocinha met with government officials at RA (the Regional Administrative Office, located in Rocinha) to present a petition written two weeks ago (see below, to read the petition). Eduardo Paes’ representatives made it crystal clear to all in attendance that their decision to demolish the ENTIRE community was non-negotiable and that NOTHING will stop them. Laboriaux’s residents questioned the officials, presenting a well organized defense, point by point, in a very professional and open manner. They questioned the conduct of the City, primarily highlighting the way in which the government has long abandoned the community; pointing out that the City’s promise that they would develop Laboriaux’s slopes and basic infrastructure has been on hold for nearly 10 years. The committee also made clear that the law states in Article 429; Section II of Rio de Janeiro’s Constitution that forced removals are illegal and can only occur in situations of ‘extreme risk.’ And, even in cases of ‘extreme risk’ it is required that all of the criteria established by the law be respected. For example, all ‘technical reports’ detailing cases of ‘extreme risk’ must be conducted with the participation of the community, and options must be discussed openly in collaboration with local residents so that appropriate solutions can be arrived at. None of this has been done!

The political and financial motives behind Eduardo Paes’ slum removal initiative are clear and he blatantly disregards the feelings and arguments presented by local residents. His actions are in total disregard of the framework established by municipal and state law. EDUARDO PAES IS DISREGARDING THE LAWS OF RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL, AND INDEED UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIZGHTS AS WELL!!! It is also clear that the media is in the service of the City and that they are omitting any reports of the City mistreating its citizens and  the media is not covering any of the facts that are actually occurring in the favelas concerning residents steadfast desire to remain.

It is well known that Eduardo Paes and his administration have long desired to rid Rio de Janeiro’s ‘nice areas’ of the favelas/slums. The administration and others are defending their actions behind false and superfluous intellectualism, coming from academics such as Sérgio Besserman, among others, who claim that defending the rights of favela residents and their communities is “anti-poor.” Paes, Besserman and other have targeted all people attempting to fight against ‘complete removal’ as agitators, anti-poor and even anti-life; saying that they will record images of all those who disagree with them and publish them via the media if one more person dies in a landslide. All of this is a ploy to distract attention away from the fact that the government has, for decades, done nothing to ensure the safety of the communities and upgrade their infrastructure.

On April 29th, Maurício Campos, the engineer who is working almost full time pro-bono in support of the movement against the complete removal of Rio’s favelas, began his field research in Laboriaux, taking photos and evaluating the soil and the housing conditions in the area. He was accompanied by Andrea, a Public Defender for the State of Rio de Janeiro. He promised to get more colleagues involved ASAP, to create a professional team of qualified engineers, architects and geologists to analysis and hold accountable the assessments of GEO-RIO, a branch of the Municipal Government.

The next step, as mentioned above, is the demonstration on April 30th, IN FRONT OF CITY HALL, at 10 AM.The

Leo (resident of Rocinha)

favelas/slums will descend upon the city, fighting peacefully to see that their rights are upheld.

Click here to read the Carta Aberta written by the residents of Laboriaux, in Portuguese


Click here to read a relevant article from the Courier of Citizenship (portuguese)