Posts tagged health
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)
For the original by Debora Pio and Isabele Aguiar in Portuguese for Viva Favela click here.
On its 50th anniversary, Vila Kennedy received the 38th Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) from the State. Under the intense heat that the summer sun usually brings to Bangu, West Zone, BOPE (Special Operations Police Battalion) police officers raised the flags of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro state on Thursday, March 13, at one of the most strategic areas of the community, the Conjunto Leão XIII. This point shares a border with the hill that provides access to the favelas of Senador Camará and Vila Aliança, where traffickers of rival factions would invade in order to try to take over the territories controlled by the local gang.
The installation of the UPP in Vila Kennedy was originally scheduled for the second half of 2014, but was brought forward because the community had been suffering for weeks from factions fighting for control over the local drug trade. According to the BOPE’s head of communications, Major Marcelo Corbage, the 14th Police Battalion and BPVE (Police Battalion on Special Routes) had been conducting operations in the area since March 7.
For this intervention, police relied on the help of technology. Corbage presented the Mobile Command Base as one of the greatest allies of BOPE at this stage. This is a car with seven cameras, six linked cameras and one that captures images in 360 degrees. The information captured by the equipment is transmitted to the Command and Control Center (CCC) in downtown Rio, but it’s still being tested. “The expectation is that by the end of the month the car will be linked to the CCC. The advantage of working with this type of intelligence is preventing the waste of manpower,” says the major.
Public works and services are the greatest expectation
The population of Vila Kennedy is estimated at 33,000 inhabitants according to Pereira Passos Institute (IPP, Rio’s planning department) whereas neighborhood associations talk of around 100,000 inhabitants. Regardless of the number, the consensus among residents is that public services are inadequate. “There are more than 120,000 inhabitants and only two state schools. We have no resources for professional training, no hospital,” complains Roni Muniz, born and raised in Vila Kennedy.
The health care facilities are limited to a health post and an UPA (Emergency Health Unit). In the last election, Mayor Eduardo Paes announced the construction of a Family Clinic, with even a site staked out. But since the project didn’t come about, the site turned into a garbage dump. For Muniz, despite the long conflict with traffickers and the resulting consequences, the priority for the neighborhood isn’t a Pacifying Police Unit, but investment in areas such as health and education.
The artist Leandro Batista remembers that the favela has already experienced a military presence, with two battalions and two DPOs (Ostensible Police Detachments). “The ideal would be to make these actually work,” he believes.
Cláudio Oliveira, who has lived in the community for 45 years, expressed confidence in the pacification process. He said, emotionally, that he hopes that with the arrival of the police unit his two-year-old son can grow up in peace. “I’m happy with the arrival of the UPP. It has been very difficult to live with these drug trafficking wars, we have all the hopes that everything improves. The working class, good and honest people, are happy,” he adds.
Social Services Secretariat gathers community leaders
Unprecedented in the process of occupation, the State Social Services Secretariat arrived shortly after the police. The Secretary Pedro Fernandes met the same morning with local leaders to think about action plans. “The advantage of Vila Kennedy is that it is an urbanistically accessible area, which will facilitate the entry of services. We will unite the community to remedy inequalities. We have many ideas, but there is no use coming here without knowing the needs of the place,” he explains.
Hugo Araujo, president of the Quafá Neighborhood Association, remembers that in such cases, the provision of services often does not fully meet the urgent needs of the community. “When services besides cable TV are offered, we can finally talk about public policy,” he claims.
On Saturday, March 15, a sports project was inaugurated in partnership with the Secretariat. Fernandes further assured that in addition to regularizing routine cleaning and maintenance, professional training initiatives such as the Caminho Melhor Jovem youth training program will also arrive soon. “Next week we will meet again with residents and other officials to listen more about specific demands. We already know that the Family Clinic will be completed by the end of the year and that the Mario Lake Theater will be reopened, but there is still much to be done and we have no more excuses to not work in the area,” he says.
According to Corbage, the pacification process occurs in four stages: tactical intervention, stabilization, implementation of the UPP and monitoring. The BOPE remains in the area for about 20 days and then passes on the command to the Military Police. Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame did not attend the event. He uploaded a video via social media, asking for the support of the population.
For the original by Cláudia Freitas in Portuguese in Jornal do Brasil click here.
According to data by Fiocruz, hypertension, stroke, depression, and even suicide were reported.
Removals occurring in communities such as Complexo do Alemão and Manguinhos in the North Zone and Rocinha in the South Zone, primarily as a result of the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) of the Rio state government, are having serious repercussions on residents’ health. In addition, the main objectives identified by the state government for the PAC program in the areas of housing, basic sanitation, and urban mobility were not achieved. Partial conclusions are presented in a report produced by the National School of Public Health’s Manguinhos Territorial Laboratory (LTM) in partnership with Fiocruz and the Ministry of Cities/CNPq, delivered by the end of 2014, with recommendations for improvements in the communities studied.
The project, called ‘Public Policies, Housing, and Sanitation: A Participatory Analysis of the PAC Manguinhos from the Perspective of Health Promotion and Environmental Justice,’ is coordinated by researchers Marcelo Firpo de Souza Porto and Marize Bastos da Cunha, who for the past year have been evaluating the work of the PAC in the communities with the participation of social entities and residents of these areas. The purpose of the study is to develop a diagnostic matrix of the problems caused by the government’s program in the favelas and identify the elements that trigger them. Preliminary results point to a serious picture common among the three communities, which is related to the process of eviction of residents that live in the localities where the PAC projects occur.
“The impact these removals have on residents’ health is enormous. We had an idea of this when we interviewed residents and health professionals in Complexo do Alemão and Manguinhos. They told us about incidents of people suffering stroke, depression, hypertension, and even suicide after experiencing the drama of dispossession. We don’t have access to official data, but with these stories we can already trace a direct correlation between the project and people’s health,” Marize Cunha clarified.
The Fiocruz researcher described the chaotic scene she found in the community of Manguinhos following a series of removals initiated in 2009. “It seems like a scene out of a war movie, with houses destroyed, areas flooded, only skeletons of buildings. It is desolate. [And that is] without mentioning the precarious conditions of those families who resist the government summons’ and remain in their houses without the provision of basic services, which are cut by public utilities, or in other words who survive without water and electricity,” Marize related. One of the residents of Manguinhos told the researchers his home was condemned by the authorities following a collapse, and the indemnity payment did not correspond to the market value of the home, much less allow him to buy another property. “This person was desperate, stressed. Quality of life declines greatly in these cases,” said Marize.
Evaluating the removals in Alemão, Marize cited another aspect that leads to the illnesses: the breaking of family ties. “Many families are separated in the process of vacating their homes and are brought to very distant places by the government, completely changing their routines and causing great impact on their social relations. This also is cause for suffering and illness,” she says.
Despite the report still being in the production phase, studies indicate that the largest problem experienced by the community of Manguinhos is housing, while in Alemão it is deficiency in the basic sanitation system, and in Rocinha, urban mobility. According to Marize, the question of sanitation in Alemão is historic and has to do with inefficient public policies. The problem of trash accumulation presents itself in the whole city, but in the favela it is dealt with differently because it requires a specific process for removal, demanding that the resident bring it to a determined point. Water presents another problem. Lack of water supply has become a natural and common occurrence, and while it is essential and must be provided daily and with quality, this is not happening in the researched areas.
“During the PAC program, various water tanks were built in Alemão, but they are out of service because of technical problems,” said Marize. According to her, public investments to maintain a regular water supply are large but fundamental from a social and health perspective. “What we see is that when the government opens a bidding process for this service, the big businesses bid but offer prices that will not allow them to compete the project. And within this line of thinking, more expensive projects are carried out, such as the construction of water tanks, after which companies solicit add-ons for the continuity of investment, which aren’t always provided, and the project is abandoned. Many times, the project is registered as complete according to government data, and the population doesn’t even have any idea of this. Later, it is difficult to obtain public resources to finalize the work,” the researcher clarified.
In Rocinha, the researchers detected the problem of urban mobility, aggravated by the residents’ protests against the construction of the cable car. “Because of the PAC project and past experience in Alemão, it is easy to see that the cable car doesn’t follow the logic of the area, with its alleys, main streets, areas of access, and highest points. In other words, it isn’t going to help in transporting people. In addition, the system that moves the gondolas doesn’t allow them to stop in stations for access by disabled people or people carrying shopping bags. This is another of the residents’ complaints. It is a big investment that impacts the budget and that could be used for more necessary projects or alternative transportation, which is more appropriate for the region,” the researcher explained.
In the three communities, many residents’ homes have been condemned due to cracks which result from the vibrations caused by the machines used in the PAC project. In the community of Matinha, in Alemão, cracking occurred in various rooms in the homes surrounding the water tank, and the homes are now being dispossessed. Residents who seek out the city government to register the incident and receive compensation are being relocated to a housing project in the neighborhood of Santa Cruz in the West Zone. To Marize, the collapse of many buildings in Complexo do Alemão, provoked by heavy rains that fell in the city last month, is a consequence of triggers such as poor administration of public policies in the community, including lack of planning, absence of dialogue with the population, and insecurity of housing.
Marize cited an unusual fact that occurred last month during the popular Circulando event by the Roots in Movement Institute (Instituto Raizes em Movimento) in Alemão. The wreckage of a staircase that belonged to a house demolished almost two years ago was painted with graffiti by fine artist Mário Brands, who gave a cultural soul to the ruins and was praised by residents for the initiative. “Days later, city agents were in the area and destroyed the new work of art. The strange thing is, that staircase was there for a long time as a symbol of social violence, cruel action, and something that hurt the community. As soon as it was changed to a symbol of empowerment, it was destroyed. It’s outrageous,” said Marize.
Studies are developed through interactive workshops
The methodology applied in this research aims for the development of workshops in the communities of Alemão, Manguinhos, and Rocinha. There have already been two meetings in each area since the beginning of the researchers’ work, with participation of 15 residents in each region selected based on three attributes: gender, residential location, and age. In the first meeting, which occurred last July, the Fiocruz researchers presented a line of study and identified the range of problems cited by the residents. In the second workshop, in October, the researchers revisited the issues debated, providing statistical data, video material, and theory about each subject identified. “The intention is to implement the themes selected by each community, listening to them and then developing a study with their cooperation,” explained Marize Cunha.
Before the end of the study, other workshops will be conducted. In Complexo do Alemão, the meetings are organized with collaboration of the Matinha community leader, Renata Trajano, and the Roots in Movement Institute, an NGO that was created to discuss social themes and provide humanistic and logistical support to residents of Alemão. “By way of the debates about housing, health promotion, sanitation, and mobility, participants are becoming aware of the ways in which these factors interfere in the personal and professional life of each resident and, at the same time, are elements of social transformation. There is a convergence between the themes, and we hope to demonstrate how this process occurs day-to-day. When a place is overrun by trash, for example, and if we have heavy rain, the debris will get stuck in the access ways, close off the passages in the entrances to houses, and interfere directly with mobility. The government must also do its duty and fulfill its promises. The project to widen the main access road that cuts through Complexo do Alemão, Joaquim de Queiroz Avenue, was not completed, and it was among the demands proposed to the authorities by the community. With this, the superficial repairs to the avenue serve as merely make up to cover up the larger problems in the crossroads,” explained the researcher.
Results of the workshops serve to elaborate recommendations to the government, which will be provided at the end of the study. The content will combine scientific knowledge about the identified themes based on specialists’ opinions and the experiences told by residents of the three communities. “They are differentiated but equally important visions about the same subjects. This shared vision of knowledge that we call Broad Community of Research (CAP by the Portuguese acronym), which produces a third fund of knowledge, which is the final result of the study,” explained Marize.
Despite the study scheduled to be finalized only at the end of 2014, there are plenty of evaluative data conducted by the Fiocruz team that are already circulating in Rio’s communities. Researchers’ access to the residents and the regions in the complexes of Rocinha and Alemão occur through partnerships with TV Tagarela and the Roots in Movement Institute, respectively.
“On International Human Rights Day we demand justice and rights for the people of Manguinhos and all favelas,” stated Fatima dos Santos Pinho de Menezes, mother of 18-year old Paulo Roberto, killed by officers from the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP), on the October 17, 2013.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, December 10, despite heavy rain, family and friends of Paulo Roberto Pinho de Menezes, his mother, brothers and sister, friends, neighbors and members of social movements held a demonstration which for several hours closed some of the main streets of Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone: sections of Leopoldo Bulhões Avenue, Dom Hélder Câmara Avenue and Democráticos Avenue in Manguinhos.
“I know that nothing can bring back my son, but now his name will be remembered in the struggle to make sure crimes like this never happen again. Paulo Roberto is present with us in the fight against this state of exception and against all the violence the state is promoting, whether through the UPP or through the PAC,” says Fatima, with scathing reference to the Pacifying Police Units (UPP), a policy from Rio de Janeiro State Military Police and the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC). PAC is a federal policy, in partnership with state and municipal governments, carried out in Manguinhos under the Urbanization of Large Favelas, Sanitation and Housing, with non-returnable investments of around R$1 billion. The Manguinhos PAC, much like many similar PAC projects, is criticized for promoting arbitrary removals and for failing to prioritize crucial housing and sanitation improvements, amongst other problems.
On the day of the demonstration, a reconstruction of the crime was due to be carried out by the Civil Police. However, this did not happen. The chief police officer for the 21st precinct, responsible for the Manguinhos area, José Pedro da Costa, told the press that the reconstruction was suspended due to the absence of several witnesses. However, residents claim that he had in fact told them he did not want the press to be present. “When such situations occur in the formal city in rich or middle class neighbourhoods the press are allowed to be there. When it happens in a favela, they don’t want the world to see what happens and the disastrous state we live in,” says Maria das Dores da Silva, 55, one of the demonstrators and a neighbor of Paulo Roberto’s family. The officer requested the temporary imprisonment of the five accused Military Police officers, José Luciano da Costa Neto, Rodrigo da Costa Tavares, José Cardoso de Araújo Junior, João Paulo da Silva Rocha and Jefferson Albuquerque Pinto. However, so far, no prison sentence has been given by the court. According the UPP commander, the accused officers are now not working on the streets, but working internally in the community. A police inquiry is also underway to investigate the death.
According to the technical report carried out by the Medical Legal Institute (IML), which belongs to the Secretary of State for Security for Rio de Janeiro State, Paulo Roberto died from asphyxiation, the same cause given in the investigation into the death of the bricklayer Amarildo de Souza, killed by the UPP in Rocinha. A shocking scene showing asphyxiation was brought to cinemas screens in the film Elite Squad, which portrays the human rights violations carried out by the Special Operations Batallion (BOPE) – considered the elite squad of Rio de Janeiro’s Military Police. In the scene, a plastic bag is put over the victim’s head and tied at the bottom. “I thought that only BOPE carried out such scenes of asphyxiation, yet now we see that the UPP also has this practice, be it here or in Rocinha,” says Pedro Paulo, a young Manguinhos resident who took part in the protest. The IML report dismisses the police version of events, in which the young man is said to have died from “a sudden cardiac arrest, caused by drug use.”
According to residents who witnessed the crime, Paulo Roberto, just like Amarildo, was beaten and tortured to death: “They wouldn’t let us save him,” residents afirm. In leaflets distributed in favelas by the Independent and Popular Front (FIP-RJ), activists question: “Who killed Paulo Roberto? A cardiac arrest, as the police claim? Or was it the persecution and terror carried out by the UPP for several months (according to his family)? Paulo Roberto was cowardly beaten by the Military Police, with the complicity of the Rapid Response Health Unit (UPA) who denied him help and would not allow his family to accompany him inside their buildings. The shameful lie that the young man died from the effects of drugs, and the attempt to criminalize him, rightly sparks people’s outrage (…) The UPP is the armed branch of an electoral farce, the reproduction in practice of enclosing and controlling the favela territories.”
“These five police officers are responsible, yet there are at least another fifteen Military Police officers involved. Two weeks ago, they were threatening us, shouting at us in the street, telling us they were going to kill us,” tells Paulo Roberto’s mother, Fatima Pinho.
“They arrested protestors on the June 20 and October 15, 2013, with no proof of any crime having been committed, and with no evidence that those arrested represented any danger to society. Yet the police is a corporation, and many criminal police officers are still out there, threatening, and carrying out atrocities. Arresting one officer or another, even ten or one hundred doesn’t achieve anything. The police is an institution from the dictatorship, which must be stopped, it’s a violation of citizenship,” says Rafael Daguerre, from the Independent and Popular Front, one of the social movements present at the demonstration.
André Luiz Deodoro, 19, an activist from the Manguinhos Human Rights Laboratory, points out that the UPP, as well as the PAC, is part of a set of segregational government policies that aim to directly or indirectly remove the poorest residents to the most distant margins of the city, and control the favelas through military force. “Dozens of people have disappeared from Manguinhos, either kicked out of their houses with one hand in front and the other behind, erased from official residential registers and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) data by the removals mafia. Hundreds of families have been tortured by the terrible living conditions caused by the PAC. Humiliated as if they were invaders, in a disastrous situation. Privatized health remains silent! Who is responsible for sanitation?” he accuses.
The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation is responsible for sanitation in the neighbourhood of Manguinhos. It manages the basic health care policies in the area and through the support foundation, Fiotec, is also responsible for the management of the Manguinhos UPA (Rapid Response Health Unit). “To this day we haven’t seen a single health report that evaluates and denounces the critical situation. In this sense, the so-called local participatory healthcare management, under the control of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation is no more than a farce,” adds André.
“The pacification policy can not be understood as an isolated phenomena, whether that’s because it reconfigures criminal networks, or because it is a key element in real estate speculation and gentrification. Not only is it linked to the forced ‘inclusion’ of segments of the population through consumption, but also the exclusion of anyone who does not adapt to this pattern of inclusion through consumption. This is Dilma, Cabral and Paes’s civilizing project. It’s a racist project. It proposes inclusion into the markets, but practices exclusion in the areas of human rights through practices of exception – torture, death, disappearances, and coercion. Dozens of disappearances happen in pacified favelas every month. There have been various accusations of threats, aggression, abuse of authority, sexual harassment of women, rape and prejudiced treatment of the community by the UPP military officers” analyzes Emerson Fonseca, a local resident and one of the organizers of the Memorial Act for Paulo Roberto.
The PAC also Kills
At least three people, one grandfather and two mothers, have died through health problems caused by the PAC construction works and the terror they bring. According to local residents, leeches, mosquitos and rats as well as iron bars and cement blocks suspended amongst the ruins of demolished houses, excessive levels of dust, lack of drinking water and electricity, contaminated water, diabetes due to stress caused by eviction threats received from PAC agents, are just a few of the problems. “Dozens, maybe even hundreds of families are living in these conditions in Manguinhos, as well as thousands of others in favelas all over the city, who are affected by the construction work related to international mega-events, such as the World Cup and the Olympics,” declares professor Carlos Vainer, from the Institute of Research and Urban and Regional Planning at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ).
The PAC planned investments in sanitation, but work on the proposed sewage collection pipes, which would carry the sewage from the whole neighborhood and surrounding area to the treatment station, has not even started. The sewage network, built by the PAC, spews the collected sewage into the Faria-Timbó and Jacaré rivers, before running into the Guanabara Bay. This constitutes an environmental crime, a formal complaint about which has already been raised by the Public Ministry to the courts. The construction of this collector pipe has been planned since the Guanabara Bay De-Pollution Program, proposed in the nineties using foreign investments, yet the plan exists only on paper to this day.
The day after the demonstration in Manguinhos, heavy rains left the whole city, including Manguinhos, waterlogged. The city came to a halt. Many important access roads, such as Avenida Brasil, were partially un-passable. Thousands of people were unable to get to work or even to leave home. Police officers from the Manguinhos UPP had to shelter in the back of a pick-up truck. The UPP have come to Manguinhos and the other ‘pacified’ communities tangled up in a context of the promotion of entrepreneurship. With their arrival in these communities private enterprise, principally telephone companies, swoop in. Yet local business people question the lack of infrastructure: “during the latest rains, everything got flooded. I lost everything I had invested in, freezers, an oven, electrical equipment, electronics and raw materials. I had to close and sell the property. Without infrastructure, any initiative is destined to fail. That’s why many big investments end up getting wasted,” complains José Filgueiras, who used to have a pizzeria in the neighborhood.
Last Tuesday November 19, an interview with Rio State Security secretary, José Mariano Beltrame, was published in which he claimed that Rio may have to lose a generation before the situation of violence in Rio’s favelas improves, saying “Rio de Janeiro has this history and we’re maybe going to lose a generation to change this picture [of violence] that, unfortunately, the state let get to this point.” The assertion has enraged favela residents and human rights advocates with much comment and discussion on social media. Here we translate a response to Beltrame’s statement by Mônica Francisco, Borel resident and representative of the Borel Institutions Network, published in Jornal do Brasil. For the original in Portuguese click here.
I’m very sorry, Beltrame, but to have to lose another generation for the public security model to work out is, at minimum, deplorable, if not abhorrent, from the human point of view. It’s just us that has to lose one generation? The 388 years that we suffered at the hands of your European ancestors is not enough?
The picture is serious. More than four million blacks were brought to Brazil from various African countries (the United States brought fewer than 1 million), and that isn’t counting the ones who died along the way. If we say that a generation lasts some 50 years, then during the regime of slavery alone we lost nearly six generations. Post-slavery, with the inability to access land, school, and, consequently, dignified employment, we lost two more. In other words, it took eight generations to see a slight improvement. Therefore, secretary, we do not accept losing any more.
We are ridiculed every day. Our country is racist, our State kills blacks through society’s silence, and what’s worse, those who are in positions of power reproduce this whole scene, clearly shown by data on the prison population, which demonstrates the rigor of the judicial system in addressing blacks. Genocide in healthcare, bankruptcy in education and public housing. And those who access these services are principally blacks because they comprise the poorest population of this country.
I don’t like the name of the holiday dedicated to the memory of Zumbi dos Palmares very much because I don’t think it does justice to its intention of legitimizing the importance of the population that built this country. It should be called “Awareness of What it Means to Be Black in Brazil Day” (rather than “Black Awareness Day”). It’s a long name, but it is more representative of the need to reaffirm the enormity of the age-old effort to be respected independent of your skin color, although we have made some advances.
The Youth Lives Plan, a federal government initiative that unites government departments, was conceived based on a sad statistic: eight full airplane crashes-worth of deaths happen per month among young black men who live in urban peripheries. We need awareness to stop this tragedy. Silent genocide—or better yet, institutionally silenced genocide with society’s consent—of those who, in fact, make up the majority of this nation. Even though many people identify themselves as pardos (mixed race) or morenos (brown), blacks make up the majority according to the most recent census, conducted in 2010.
Upon hearing sociologist and professor Michel Misse say in his presentation on the irregularity of the official numbers in respect to the violence in Rio de Janeiro state that “the death toll by police action in the State and in Brazil should be as publicized as the rate of inflation,” I signed below and I’m going to repeat what he said—I think it is true. Especially because you cannot ignore the poster used to publicize Misse’s book launch announcing 10,000 deaths in ten years caused by police actions. By the way, the presentation was made at the launch of the book, “When the Police Kill,” resulting from a study by the Citizenship, Conflict, and Urban Violence Nucleus (NECVU) of the Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ).
Another racial tragedy in Brazil is seen in prisons, which produce an alarming picture: 53% of prisoners in Brazil are black and, according to the United Nations, Brazil has the fourth largest prison population in the world. This is no longer the environment to delay the structural change that Brazil needs. Next year we must show by the strength of the vote, which is still obligatory, our discontent and indignation with the Brazilian State’s failure to act to dignify a portion of the population that composes its majority, a group that is made invisible within its own pain, in its intellectual and cultural capacity. No to the institutionalized genocide of a people by the Brazilian State.
Our fight is for rights. The black person, the impoverished person, the favela resident, or otherwise, deserves respect.
Mônica Francisco is a representative of the Borel Institutions Network, coordinator of the Arteiras Group and studying for a degree in Social Sciences