Posts tagged Cosmos
Thousands of families have been occupying the abandoned ex-Telerj complex in Engenho Novo, North Zone, where new arrivals have been claiming residence since Sunday March 30. The occupation involves over 8,000 people, according to the residents, with more arriving every day. Many families left their homes from the communities of Mandela, Rato Molhado, Jacarezinho, Cosmos, Manguinhos, Duque de Caxias and Morro do Sampaio. Others who lived homeless on nearby streets also participated in the occupation.
The space was collectively distributed as families arrived and began to erect their single-space rudimentary barracos (make-shift shelters) made from plywood and reclaimed materials, without any roof, furniture, or floor. Many barracos (typically 4m x 4m in size) were built on the insides and rooftops of the buildings, whilst others emerged in the remaining unoccupied outdoor spaces. Every barraco had a name painted on it claiming its personal space.
The 50,000m2 complex is shadowed by two six-story buildings and one warehouse, all arranged around a vast outdoor car park. Formerly a part of Rio de Janeiro State Telecommunications Company (Telerj), the complex was sold in the privatization of Brazilian telecommunications in 1998 to TELEMAR (today Oi). Eight years ago Oi abandoned the building leaving it derelict and empty. Local residents of Engenho Novo claimed the space was frequently utilized to sell and use drugs, reported O Globo.
Judge Maria Aparecida Silveira de Abreu ordered a removal injunction against the occupiers with no space for negotiations. A meeting took place at the Fórum do Méier Civil Court on Tuesday April 8 to decide a strategy and timeline for the eviction. No public conclusion from the meeting was revealed. Maria José da Silva, the only public representative with apparent ties to the community, Guilherme Simões from the Homeless Workers’ Movement in São Paulo, Humberto Cairo from the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) representing the Military Police, representatives from Civil Defense, Fire service, both state and municipal governments, and the site owners (Oi) all met to discuss the exit strategy. A residents’ meeting scheduled for later that evening with Maria José da Silva was cancelled.
Resident’s respond to multiple issues
Speculative housing prices, inadequate health and education services, expensive travel, threat of removal, risk of flooding, landslides, and other issues they felt were ignored by the state were among the reasons articulated by the newly formed community as to what drove them to occupy the space.
Until recently, Joseli, 61 (pictured right), lived in a rented single-room house in Manguinhos with her daughter and four grandchildren where they paid R$600 a month. She continues to earn the minimum wage of R$724 per month in her job as a cook where she has diligently worked for over 30 years. Despite her hard work, she stresses that wages do not meet the basic costs of living. She went on to explain that, “When the children get sick, either there are no doctors, or no medication in the hospital,” echoing a common sentiment across the occupation. Joseli looks forward to her 65th birthday when she can claim her bus pass paid for by the state.
Only 4.5km from the Telerj site, the Maracanã stadium, site of the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, offers a physical manifestation for the occupiers to focus their sentiment. Marcela, 26, lived in Jacarezinho with her son and husband until recently. Her husband works long hours delivering paint by bicycle around the North Zone, but still they continue to struggle to pay for basic goods. “A worker is worthless in this city,” she explained. “What is this [effort] all for, if we can’t even pay our way? I just want a little house… It’s no comparison to what they have spent on the [World] Cup.”
On Thursday April 10, Mayor Eduardo Paes attempted to divert attention away from the media’s focus on the government’s responsibility. Paes claimed, “I recognize an invasion, with all the characteristics of being professional and organized,” in an attempt to coopt public opinion and criminalize the occupation. He suggested it was a premeditated attempt to obtain social housing, such as through the public housing program Minha Casa Minha Vida, meant to house those in need but often used to rehouse victims of forced evictions. O Globo also indicated the occupation was organized by a single or group of organizers, suggesting that a Facebook campaign informed many of the residents. When asked, residents of Favela da Telerj were not aware of the social media campaign.
Although the precise mechanics of the mobilization remain unclear for now, it is clear by the scale and speed of the occupation that this is a community response (‘organized’, or not) to a broad range of social issues shared by a number of diverse communities across Rio de Janeiro.
Families stressed they wanted a non-violent solution to the situation, claiming they are open to dialogue with the state.
The eviction of Telerj began at 4am in the morning today, Friday April 11. According to O Globo, 1,500 police from the BOPE (Special Operations Battalion), Choque (Shock Battalion), and UPP (Police Pacifying Units) participated. Officials from the Fire service and Méier Civil Court are also present.
In a live television report O Globo reported the unconfirmed deaths of three children killed by tear gas, later suggesting they were injured. At the time of publication, the newly formed community continues to show solidarity and resist against the police attack by tear gas and rubber bullets. Meanwhile, O Globo reports acts of “vandalism” by the community.
Despite the eviction, the qualities of the occupants and their project will be remembered as ephemeral, injecting creativity, improvization, collectivity, and workaround ethics into a space once abandoned and deserted.
(Inset photo credits to the author and Midia NINJA; album credits to Midia NINJA)
Early Tuesday morning, January 8, representatives from the City arrived unannounced at Favela do Metrô-Mangueira to demolish homes, causing panic and despair amongst the hundreds of people currently living in the locale. Around twelve homes were demolished, some with the occupants’ belongings still inside.
Outraged, local residents held a demonstration on the main road in the afternoon and evening, closing Rua Radial Oeste, the main road which passes Metrô-Mangueira and the nearby Maracanã stadium, for several hours. Violence broke out between police and protesters, with police firing rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas and flash bombs and some protesters throwing rocks and bottles. In the midst of the tumult, one military police officer pointed a gun at the head of a local youngster.
“It was a war scene,” explained Marilene, a young mother who has been living in an abandoned house in Metrô for around a year and a half. “Police fired tear gas everywhere. Children were being sick. It was terrible.” Like most of those currently living in Metrô, Marilene occupies a house that was vacated during a long, drawn-out eviction process that began in November 2010.
Favela do Metrô-Mangueira was founded by workers from the Northeast of Brazil employed in the construction of the Maracanã metro station 35 years ago. In 2010 the 700 families who’d built and developed the favela learned their community was under threat of eviction and on November 4, 2010 a demolition crew arrived and 107 of the more vulnerable families were taken to replacement housing in a Minha Casa Minha Vida condominium 70km away in Cosmos, West Zone. The remaining families resisted and eventually, after over two years of living amidst the rubble and experiencing high rates of burglary and squalor resulting from the initial evictions, were relocated to better quality apartments in neighboring Mangueira and Triagem. However after all those families left by early last year, the land and many of the structures remained abandoned and City plans for the area were still undecided and undisclosed. As a result, over the past several years, hundreds of some of Rio’s most vulnerable, poor families have come to occupy the vacated houses.
The current situation is a direct result of the City’s gross negligence and mismanagement. Having evicted long-time residents to public housing units without any public consultation over the use of land–required by local legislation–the City left the land and houses to be occupied by those in most desperate need of public housing. Public housing is in theory specifically destined for the poorest and most in need, and not workers with consolidated homes as was the case of former Metrô residents. And now, the extremely vulnerable families currently living in Metrô seem set to receive nothing.
On Tuesday, as some occupants’ houses were demolished, all current residents were told they needed to be out by Friday with no alternative accommodation or solution offered. Yet all those RioOnWatch spoke to affirm that Mayor Eduardo Paes personally promised that no one would be left homeless in a meeting held in the community church a few months ago.
But the confusion and despair continued yesterday for residents who have little and nowhere to go. Dona Valeria, a recyclable material picker and mother of eight children between the ages of 4 and 20 who has lived with her family in Metrô for almost three years says, “To look for a place to live you need to have something and what do I have? Nothing.” She goes on: “Everyone needs to have their own corner. I don’t know where I’ll go if I leave here. If I had somewhere else to go I’d already have left.”
Some residents report that social workers yesterday encouraged those receiving the Bolsa Família stipend to go and register for a Minha Casa Minha Vida apartment, but as residents point out, this could take years to process.
Located right next to the Maracanã stadium where this year’s World Cup final will take place, the original reason for the removal of Metrô-Mangueira was believed to be for a parking lot for the tournament. Only in September last year was it confirmed by municipal decree that the land is destined for an automotive complex with 96 commercial units and a park with cycle path, skate ramp, gym for the elderly, playground and 400 trees. The project will cost R$30.5 million. Even so, there are rumors of it being used for a shopping center or other such facility, showing how problematic and unclear municipal communications with the public have been.
But right now, hundreds of vulnerable Rio residents, many of whom came from the streets or shelters to occupy houses in Metrô-Mangueira, are potentially facing another brutal, violent episode as military police shock troops are currently in the local. A volunteer lawyer from the Institute of Human Rights Defenders was present on Wednesday registering residents to prepare a collective security injunction to question the legality of this eviction. She explains: “The courts should be aware of this because these are human lives being put at stake. There are children, elderly, pregnant women who don’t have anywhere to go… There were negotiations in which the mayor committed to give assistance to these people and this agreement is not being honored. It’s important not to leave these people to one side, without help.”
Maria Garcez looked on devastated as City workers demolished her home in Favela do Metrô on November 4th, 2010. Her image accompanied RioOnWatch’s first report on the brutal eviction of the community to reportedly build a parking lot for the World Cup 2014 at the nearby Maracanã stadium, though to this day no official project for the site has been released.
Two years later we met up with Dona Maria, 65, at the apartment she shares with her granddaughter in Minha Casa, Minha Vida replacement housing in the distant West Zone neighborhood of Cosmos. With expressive outbursts in her thick Northeast accent, Dona Maria, who has lived in Rio since February 1963 but was originally from São Luiz, Maranhão, talks about her experience.
Where did you live when you first came to Rio?
First I lived in Bonsucesso then I was relocated to Santa Cruz on Avenida Antarres, but I left because of the transport. I worked at the time. Now I don’t, now I’m retired. So I gave up my house there and went to live in a shack on the Pedreira hill in Acarí. Since there was a lot of violence and crime, I left and rented somewhere. From there I went to the piece of land on São Francisco Xavier [in Favela do Metrô] from which I was removed to come here. I built my shack there, with little strength and without help from anyone else.
By the time you were evicted what was your house like?
It had a tile roof and was made of brick. It wasn’t plastered. It was dingy, practically a shack except it was made of brick. It wasn’t made of boards, it had tile, but it was a shack. The water was very precarious. The drains were precarious. The electricity was precarious because it was all gato [illegally siphoned electricity supply].
I lived thirty meters after the viaduct. It was a favela with rats, blocked drains, full of venomous centipedes, but I liked it there. I don’t know how to explain it. I liked being there, close to the center and resources.
I felt violated. I was nervous and disoriented when they arrived. I dragged everything out before it was all buried. I had materials I had purchased to construct a lage [roof terrace], but I was unfortunate, it all became debris.
How was the move to Cosmos?
It was very bad and very difficult because I’d lived there [in Favela do Metrô] for 24, almost 25 years. It’s difficult even today because here we don’t have any support.
What are the difficulties in living here?
Here we only have the family clinic. It’s filled with people who have been relocated from there to here. There’s a boy who’s been trying to get an appointment for a month and still hasn’t managed. There’s the Rocha Faria [hospital in neighboring Campo Grande] that’s always busy. I’ve still not been. There’s the UPA [Emergency Care Unit] where some attend well, others no.
Things like a supermarket, market, grocery stores, we have but they’re a bit far away. Before we were relocated we had all this too, but it was all nearer.
Transport is terrible here. We don’t have a direct bus to the city. There’s just one air-conditioned bus for R$8. There’s the train that you ride like a sardine in a tin. It’s a disgrace, a public calamity, to get to the center of the city. This week I’m going to a hospital there and I’ll have to stay over at someone’s house in Tijuca to be able to leave at 4am and get a number [in the queue]. I’ll leave here Thursday, get a train to Central and then a bus to Tijuca and sleep there. Here we don’t have anything.
The problem is the transport and health services. The rest is ok. We have water and electricity and so on.
What do you like about living here?
I like my house very much because really I lived in a shack and on the minimum salary pension I receive, I didn’t and don’t have the resources to get an apartment like this. I like my house here. But I don’t like the location. If I could, I’d have already sold this apartment and moved into a favela down there [in the city]. There we have Souza Aguiar, Salgado Filho, Andaraí, Barata Ribeiro [hospitals]. Transport is easier. There’s proximity to the center of the city.
There are people relocated from several different communities living in this condominium. How are relations?
I don’t have much contact. Just ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon’ with some people. There’s no communication or intimacy. I don’t complain because I stay inside my house. No one bothers me and I bother no one. For me it’s OK.
If you could go back to Favela do Metrô or housing in Mangueira would you?
[Thinks about it] No. Even though I don’t like it here, I wouldn’t go no. I’ve been here for two years now. I’m starting to adapt. I don’t die of love for the place. I like my house, as I explained, but it still isn’t mine because it isn’t written down. The mayor put us here so as long as they don’t remove me I can say it’s mine. I’m here now.
Since October 2009 when Rio was selected to host the 2016 Olympics, more than 8,000 people have been evicted from their homes. Tens of thousands more are expected. Forced eviction should not be confused with consensual relocation; the prior is nonconsensual by nature and violates basic local, state and federal legislation, as well as widely held human rights.
Upon studying the extensive documentation of the removal of eight communities, partial evictions of several others, and reports from yet another 11 currently under threat, the following patterns of abuses have been found to be commonplace:
Lack of Notification
On May 21st, 2011 city authority representatives turned up in the North Zone favela of Largo do Campinho with demolition apparatus and a judicial notice and ordered people to vacate their homes so they can be demolished to make way for the Transcarioca rapid bus highway, an Olympic infrastructure project to connect Barra da Tijuca – location of the Olympic Park – and the international airport. Although aware of the prefeitura’s plans to remove the community, residents weren’t notified of the demolition plans and hadn’t received any compensation or alternative housing. Edmilson Machado, born and raised in the community, said “None of us have anywhere to go.” Another resident exclaimed ,”The work has to take place but do we have to be removed from our homes with force? They gave me one hour to get my things and get out of the house.”
The sudden arrival of the city authorities’ demolition teams, without any forewarning for people to arrange somewhere to stay or proper removal of belongings has been documented in Cantagalo in Ipanema (South Zone), Metrô-Mangueira near Maracanã Stadium (North Zone), Restinga in Vargem Grande (West Zone) and Favela do Sambódromo in central Rio.
Violent and Intimidating Eviction Tactics
On November 9th, 2010, court officials, police, social workers, firemen and moving trucks arrived at Vila Taboinha (West Zone) to forcibly remove 400 families. As the day went on the community continued to resist eviction which led military police to throw pepper gas bombs to disperse the crowd.
Aggressive and intimidating techniques pervade eviction accounts. Edmilson, a resident from Restinga, reports how City representatives forcibly removed people from their houses: “If someone refused to leave they would take the bulldozer and start breaking down the door. The officers would come in to your house, take you out by force and then demolish it.”
Residents are often intimidated into accepting the eviction, told that “it will be better if you leave now” and threatened with losing the possibility of compensation or alternative housing. Residents of Rua Quáxima in Campinho (North Zone) report they were told they weren’t allowed to go to a lawyer or the Public Defender’s Office about the eviction.
Those who resist are left to live amongst the rubble as the half-demolished community becomes prey for rats, drug addicts and thieves, all but destroying the security of the area. It’s perceived as a strategy for breaking people’s will to fight. In The Guardian’s report last year on Metrô-Mangueira, Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Brazil researcher said “They come, demolish the house, leave the rubble, frequently damage neighbouring houses and the infrastructure – breaking main pipes, cutting through electricity lines and making the community unviable – which then attracts… drug addicts, plagues of rats and cockroaches that basically force the rest of the community to move, often in very, very unfavorable circumstances.”
Unfair or No Compensation
In Rio de Janeiro, the authorities are legally required to offer evictees three options: alternative housing; cash compensation; or assisted purchase. In practice this doesn’t happen as the authorities don’t have enough alternative housing to offer everyone or willingness to expend resources for assisted purchase or fair compensation. The result is a great deal of pressure during the initial rounds of negotiations. When offered, housing is generally in distant and peripheral West Zone neighborhoods known for militia activity and poor infrastructure, such as Campo Grande and Cosmos, up to 70km away.
As Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Housing says, “A lot of violations are happening in the financial area with the compensations and resettlement options offered. The compensation offered is extremely low – R$3000, R$5000, R$10,000 – values totally insufficient for these families to have a proper home. They don’t have anywhere to live.”
In Rio’s booming real estate market, the values offered are in no way enough for replacement housing, and completely rule out the possibility for families to stay in the same area. In Vila das Torres, which was removed to make way for the recently inaugurated Madureira Park, residents were offered R$8,000-17,000 with properties in the surrounding area going for at least R$80,000. Seu Albino, a 60-year-old resident said, “Of course we don’t want to get in the way of progress. But a fair value must be given, for us to at least have something.”
There are also reports of people receiving no compensation at all. A year and a half after losing her home, Elisângela from Pavãozinho was still awaiting compensation. Residents of Rua Domingo Lopes in Campinho (North Zone), evicted for the Transcarioca rapid bus transit line, allege they weren’t offered any compensation.
Also, compensation is offered for homes, not businesses, meaning that any sign of commercial activity on a property exempts the owner from compensation, as reported during the removal of West Zone communities Vila Harmonia, Restinga and Recreio 2 for the Transoeste Rapid Bus Transit line from Santa Cruz to Barra da Tijuca.
Lack of Justifiable Reason for Eviction
In many cases evictions are completely arbitrary. Vila Harmonia in Recreio (West Zone) remained in place for the original plans for the Transoeste Rapid Bus Transit Line. The plans for the Olympic Park do not require the eviction of the community of Vila Autódromo in Barra da Tijuca (West Zone). The evictions in what the authorities define as risk areas in Santa Marta in Botafogo (South Zone), Providência in central Rio and Pavão-Pavãozinho in Copacabana (South Zone) have all been deemed unnecessary by experts. In Muzema (Itanhangá, Barra da Tijuca), the reason given for eviction — dredging a canal — runs counter to previous programs to dredge the same canal, which did not require any relocation whatsoever.
In 2006 Rio was preparing to host the Pan-American Games. Sixty-eight families were evicted from the West Zone community of Arroio-Pavuna, the reason given that the land would be used for the construction of sporting equipment. Instead the remaining 28 families looked on as the site where their neighbors once lived was turned into a luxury garden for the adjacent condominium. Arroio-Pavuna’s experience is thought to be indicative of the broader agenda behind Rio’s evictions.
Watch these three videos with stories of Rio’s evictions:
Read this article in Portuguese here.
RioOnWatch was the first news site to report on the brutal Favela do Metrô eviction back in November 2010. A year and a half later we revisit the scene to see how residents have faired. Slideshow is also available.
Two years on from the first announcements that their houses would be cleared to make way for World Cup 2014 developments, residents of Favela do Metrô are still living through the brutal, drawn out destruction of their community.
A stone’s throw from the world famous Maracanã stadium, Favela do Metrô was founded 33 years ago by workers from the Northeast of Brazil hired to build the adjacent Maracanã metro station from which the favela takes its name. Situated at the foot of the much larger and well-known Mangueira favela, Metrô was in 2010 home to over 700 families and 126 businesses, mostly auto repairs and mechanics that line the main highway.
Speaking in the forecourt entrance to the community, in front of a wall marked ‘[Mayor] Eduardo Pães and [Housing Secretary] Bittar [are] enemies of the people,’ Francecleide Costa, president of the Favela do Metrô Resident’s Association explains the demoralizing process the community has undergone: “In July 2010 City officials entered the community spraypainting numbers on the houses, making notes and taking photos. We realized we were going to have to leave. We didn’t know what to do.”
Standing near a reeking, overflowing Comlurb garbage skip, left abandoned by the City which has ceased providing basic municipal services, despite 300 families still on site, Francecleide continues: “People have their whole lives here, their house, school, work, and then someone comes along saying you don’t have the right to live here anymore.”
Official announcements and pressure to leave followed, with replacement housing offered under the Minha Casa Minha Vida iniative in the West Zone neighborhood of Cosmos, over 70km from Favela do Metrô. Buckling under pressure, 107 families moved to Cosmos in December 2010.
Community resistance aided by the state’s public defenders office, the Catholic church, and international press attention secured replacement housing nearby in the new Mangueira 1 and 2 apartment developments. 248 families moved to Mangueira 1 last year, with remaining residents scheduled to be moved either to Mangueira 2, due for completion in the next couple of months, or at the next metro stop in Triagem.
Whilst residents have fought evictions, the City has gone ahead demolishing houses left behind by residents taken to Cosmos and Mangueira 1. Currently, the skeleton of a once vibrant community lives precariously amidst the rubble.
Walking through the community, washing lines hang over the garbage and rubble where neighbor’s houses once stood. Francecleide laments the current situation: “Light (the electricity utility) and Comlurb (waste collection) don’t come here anymore. We have to call and call to get them to take away the garbage piles. It’s very difficult to live with. It’s ugly and dirty. There are lots of mosquitos, Dengue and rats. I run through here at night because I’m terrified of the rats.”
Abandoned and half demolished houses have attracted homeless people to the community. “A lot of people have come trying to sign up for relocations. It creates a lot of tensions in the community. They don’t help with community trash collection. They just make things worse.”
Walking further away from the metro station, the number of houses standing decreases, leaving remaining residents isolated among cleared spaces filled with rubble and semi-demolished structures where drug use, prostitution and robbery have become commonplace at night. 78 year old Sebastiane de Souza was robbed at her home, currently opening out onto a large cleared space. “I’m scared to go out,” she says. “We’re alone here. We’re in God’s hands now.”
Approximately half the community has already left. Of those that moved to Cosmos, the dislocation from their places of work, as well as friends and schools, has been difficult.
Sebastião had lived in the community for 25 years before moving to Cosmos in 2010. Pointing to the cleared area where his home once stood, he says “Everything I have is here. I work here and now I have to leave at 5am to get here on time.” He goes on, “[The authorities] have thrown us to the side.”
Following the initial abrupt eviction of 107 families to Cosmos, the 600 or so remaining families resisted, counting on help from the State Public Defenders and the Catholic Church. The international media and human rights organizations also brought attention to their struggle.
As a result, others have been moved close by, to the 248-unit Mangueira 1 housing complex. Some complain of poor construction. Rosa Silveira, also a resident for 25 years, moved to Mangueira 1 fourteen months ago. She says: “I used to have a good house with a garage. They removed us for nothing. I wanted it to be better. There are cracks in my apartment and when it rains there are leaks. It’s difficult. A lot of people are angry.”
For those left living in the half-demolished favela, it’s a case of waiting for Mangeira 2 and housing in Triagem. Francecleide believes the destruction of houses and subsequent neglect, as well as the removal of community leaders, are part of a strategy to weaken resistance of those that want to stay. It has worked. Francecleide, who exudes dignified strength as she guides us through the community she’s fought to save, admits to being overwhelmed by the situation. “I never thought I’d say this but I’m ready to leave,” she says. “It’s unbearable and it hurts a lot.”
The actual plans for the area after the final evictions haven’t been made public, however it’s believed to become a parking lot in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.
“For me, the World Cup means messing with the poor and taking away people’s rights,” says Franceleide, going on to cite the evictions in townships in South Africa for the 2010 Cup. She pauses. “But we only really feel it when it’s us, right?”