Posts tagged public policy

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Essential Reading on Rio’s Favelas

Rio is a fascinating and multi-layered city. For visitors and students, unravelling the complex relationships between the sun, sand, samba and enduring crime and poverty in the city can prove difficult. Fortunately, the books available on Rio and the favelas are compelling, funny and diverse. Ranging from a gripping enthnography of black humor amongst women in the favela to an in-depth historical study of the legal basis of poverty, readers have many options to suit different tastes and interests. Outlined below are some of the most famous and widely recommended books on Rio’s favelas.

Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro by Enrique Desmond Arias

Drugs and Democracy in Rio de Janeiro is a study conducted over nine years documenting the emergence of urban violence in Rio. Arias studied the uniquely complex relationships between the state, drug trafficking gangs, and civil leaders to demonstrate how criminal networks became so deeply embedded in society. The book includes case studies of Tubarão, Santa Ana and Vigário Geral employing participant observation and interview research. These case studies illustrate his general theory of how violent actors in Brazil and more generally South America are closely linked to political systems and provide a large challenge for the development of democratic governance.

Interestingly, this book provides fresh perspectives on understanding how violence develops, arguing that instead of the traditional conception of criminals as isolated deviant factions, collaboration between criminal, civic and state actors are regular and fundamental to the existence of criminal groups. The cross-institutional ties allow criminals to take on illegal activities with minimal opposition, allow politicians to secure essential favela votes, and enable residents to access essential services. For those interested in network theory, criminology and sociology this is an essential read.

Available in English – Published in 2006 by University of North Carolina Press

A Poverty of Rights by Brodwyn Fisher

A Poverty of Rights is an excellent investigation of the period between 1930 and 1964, chiefly during the rule of President Getúlio Vargas, when the legal and institutional basis for Brazilian citizenship arose. Divided into four parts on urban planning and regulatory law, labor and social welfare laws, criminal justice, and property rights, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the legal ‘basis’ of poverty.

Fisher looks in detail at the effects of remodeling and beautification attempts on urban geography, demographic factors such as mass migration from the northeast of Brazil and explanations as to why poor citizens were obliged to “create their own urban world in the suburbs, swamps, hills, and backyards of the civilized city.”

Under Vargas, law and citizenship dramatically extended their range and in some senses foreshadowed political, economic and civil rights for all. Yet, the continuing illegality of favelas deprived residents of any ability to claim their rights and made vulnerability and dependence chronic features of Carioca poverty. The citizenship offered to the poor in illegal settlements was “curtailed by laws and processes that outlawed critical aspects of their daily existence, clashed with less formal systems of value and practice, or required material and bureaucratic resources that most poor people could not lay hands on.”

Fischer argues that the informality of the poor allowed Rio’s elite society to function and thrive. Informal settlements saved the city from devoting scant resources to the poor, cut labor and tax bills and enabled politicians to trade social development programs for votes. For Fischer, the ongoing vulnerability of the poor became a source of power that is still critical to networks of profit and political power today. Reading this book will give the reader an understanding of the Vargas period, the urban history of Rio and the broader interactions between law, rights and informality, through today.

Available in English – Published in 2008 by Stanford University Press

Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown by Donna Goldstein

Goldstein’s ethnography, an intimate portrait of violence, suffering and humor amongst women in the Felicidade Eterna favela, is both informative and a delight to read. Laughter Out of Place is based around the stories told by a domestic worker and resident–the incredibly charismatic Glória. Through Glória we are introduced to the lives and struggles of her entourage of children, children’s partners, boyfriends and friends. Glória herself describes her home as a “a revolving door of extended family through which…blood and fictive kin and the hungry can find shelter and be informally adopted and cared for.”

Based on over a decade of fieldwork, the book focuses on the creative responses–absurdist and black humor–that individuals use to cope with daily conditions of humiliation and despair. One particularly poignant part of the ethnography recounts Glória’s chance encounter with the father of her eldest son Pedro Paulo. Pedro had been a member of the Comando Vermelho drug faction and was killed in a shoot-out with police in Rocinha. Glória explains, laughing, that when she told her ex-partner about their son’s death he began weeping. She cannot believe that Pedro’s father, who hadn’t contributed in any way to raising their son, can be experiencing any kind of grief for the death of his son who he treated like a stranger. The anecdote offers a glimpse into the difficulties faced by women in favelas: the politics of sexuality, providing for many children on a single salary, and managing a large family.

This detailed ethnography reveals both the difficulties of living in a favela and the dignity and resilience of inhabitants. With chapters focusing on class, race and domestic worker/employee relations this is a good introduction for students and anybody seeking an intimate, and unexpectedly funny, account of daily life in the favela.

Available in English – Published in 2003 by University of California Press

Favela Cover PhotoFavela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro by Janice Perlman

Janice Perlman’s first book The Myth of Marginality (1979) has long been considered an essential text for anybody hoping to understand the complexities of poverty in Rio de Janeiro. Her most recent book Favela: Four Decades of Living on the Edge in Rio de Janeiro revisits the communities studied in her first book, analyzing how the last 30 years have changed residents’ lives.

One main advantage of Perlman’s longitudinal study it that it demonstrates how urban policy has affected the lives of favela residents in the long-term, taking into account the perspectives of children and grandchildren. Perlman revisits those evicted from Catacumba in 1970 to public housing complexes in Nova Brasília in Complexo do Alemão and those in Duque de Caixas in the Baixada Fluminense.

The book flits between popular social science and academic styles and includes statistical analysis of data collected in questionnaires to support Perlman’s research conclusions. The book attempts to explain how the ‘poverty trap’ operates, showing that despite the existence of some social mobility and increasing education, the stigma that remains attached to favelas and their residents still prevents upward mobility, even for the most hardworking and talented. The work includes interviews with study participants, and an examination of related changes including growth in the drug trade, expansion of education, gentrification, uneven growth and employment.
Perlman’s groundbreaking study demonstrates the difficulty of studying, understanding and writing about favelas. In her own words:

“Whatever generalization you make about favelas can be contradicted by a counter-example. If you show their vibrant side, you risk romanticizing poverty. If you dwell on the violent side, you obscure their vitality and you risk propagating wrong-minded stereotypes and stigma that residents battle every day. Everything in a favela contains its opposite.”

Available in English – Published in 2010 by Oxford University Press

Hard Times in the Marvellous City: From Dictatorship to Democracy in the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro by Bryan McCann

For anybody seeking to understand more about Rio’s development at the end of the Military Dictatorship, Hard Times provides an excellent history of the period from the late 1970s onwards in which favelas were consolidated, residents were calling for re-democratization and changed seemed inevitable.

The book then examines why reforms failed to meet expectations, focusing on the development of schools, the growth of the drugs trade and the links between neighborhood associations and government. A more detailed book review was recently published on RioOnWatch and is available here.

Available in English – Published in 2014 by Duke University Press

Culture is our Weapon: Making Music and Changing Lives in Rio de Janeiro by Damian Platt and Patrick Neate

This book  tells the story of the work of the AfroReggae cultural group, established in 1993 that seek to divert favela youth away from violence and involvement in drug trafficking, starting with a community newspaper and cultural events in the Vigário Geral favela. AfroReggae has provided the opportunity to get involved in music, to promote black culture and with international tours, records deals, blocos in the center of Rio during carnival and a feature film Favela Rising, it provides a compelling portrait of the possibilities of resistance and empowerment through culture in Rio’s favelas.

Available in English – Published by Penguin in 2010 

Understanding Sociabilities: Identity, Culture and Resistance in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas by Sandra Jovchelovitch and Jacqueline Priego-Hernández

This book was written with experience gained by a pioneering research team comprising of members at LSE, UNESCO Brazil, Itaú Social, Itaú Cultural, AfroReggae and the Central Unica das Favelas (CUFA). Understanding Sociabilites takes a social psychology approach to explore how favela residents have built such a strong social fabric despite the difficulties presented by favela life. Interviews with leaders of over 100 social development projects are analyzed alongside opinions of specialists and observers to try and piece together an understanding of the rich social life of favelas. A more detailed outline of the study and launch event can be found here.

Available in both English and Portuguese online: free download from UNESCO

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Minha Casa Minha Vida-Entidades: Federally-Funded Housing Solutions Through Self-Managed Cooperatives

Every month, representatives of 116 families meet in a warehouse in central Rio. The families currently live in different parts of the city: in the favelas of Parque da Cidade and Providência, the urban occupation Quilombo das Guerreiras, and other parts of Rio’s downtown and Port Zone. Because of their involvement with the social movements Central de Movimentos Populares (Center for Grassroots Movements, or CMP) and União Nacional por Moradia Popular (National Union for Popular Housing, or UMP), and thanks to financing from the federal program Minha Casa Minha Vida-Entidades, they will soon all live together in an apartment building on the site of the warehouse and five adjacent lots.

The project is called Quilombo da Gamboa, and it will provide government subsidized affordable housing for families making up to three times the Brazilian minimum wage, or under R$1,600 (US$695) per month. Because it’s in Rio’s central Port Zone, residents will enjoy access to the jobs and other urban resources that brought many of them to their current homes in Rio’s South or Central zones. The design has two interior courtyards to cultivate community life, and one that will have access to the street so that residents are connected with the outside neighborhood. The architecture firm talked through these design decisions with the entire group, just as the group decides together about maintenance of the current lots and music and holiday events they currently organize.

Josilene Lima, a 38-year-old domestic worker, first attended an organizing meeting for the Quilombo da Gamboa because a friend thought she might find it interesting. Curious about the group’s organizational style, she asked a question about it at the meeting, and was drawn in by the enthusiasm and participatory nature of the group. Lima is now one of Gamboa’s coordinators and a regional representative of the UMP, and she speaks gratefully of the hope and friendships she’s found in the process, even through struggle: “No one is born knowing things. I’m here where I never thought I would be because I’ve gotten attached to a group of people who work for something better.”

Across the city in the West Zone neighborhood of Colônia Juliano Moreira, another housing cooperative called Grupo Esperança is in progress with a slightly different setup: with an architect’s support, the families themselves are building seventy single-family brick homes. Under a fluttering yellow UMP flag, they meet every Sunday for a group workday, traveling from areas such Campo Grande, two hours farther west, and Vigário Geral, two hours to the north.

Grupo Esperança too is designed with participatory management at every step. Over a lunch cooked and served by two co-op members, the group votes on their budget for the coming weeks and any necessary decisions about hiring and booking for construction shifts.

In both Quilombo da Gamboa and Grupo Esperança, residents will become owners of their homes under a collective contract. The co-ops are subsidized by a federal program called Minha Casa Minha Vida-Entidades, which supports self-organized affordable housing intiatives that are affiliated with non-governmental organizations. These and other Rio co-ops are possible due to a great deal of technical, legal, and organizational support from the Bento Rubião Human Rights Foundation and from social movements for the right to housing.

The co-ops are in demand. Jurema Constâncio is helping coordinate Grupo Esperança after a successful ten years of living in the co-op of Shangri-La in nearby Taquara. Esperança architect Alexandre Correira stops in to visit families in the Herbert de Souza co-op, which he also designed, on the way to visit his current site. And Joseline Lima has enough people on the Quilombo da Gamboa waiting list to fill several future collectives.

The Face of Affordable Housing in Rio

The housing deficit in the city of Rio was calculated by the Pereira Passos Institute in 2011 as 148,000 units. This includes homes that are needed for people in precarious housing, those who live multiple families to a home, families that earn up to three times the minimum wage and spend more than 30% of their income on rent, and homes with more than three people per bedroom. Under federal law, people who make up to ten times the minimum wage and are not homeowners qualify for subsidized “social interest” housing; those in the greatest need make up to three times the minimum wage and are classified as “strip one” income earners.

The people that public housing is designed to serve are found across the city, and many who fall into this category live in Rio’s favelas, which house a range of lower income-earners and various levels of quality of housing, from precarious to consolidated. When told they must move to public housing units, however, thousands of families from more precarious favela housing every year choose not to go—and many campaign vigorously to stay where they are. That’s because of the quality and inaccessible location of the standard public housing units, financed through the primary arm of the Minha Casa Minha Vida program. The majority of these units are built in the city’s distant peripheries, where one housing department official warned against creating “ghettos of poverty,” and where paramilitary militia groups frequently extort money and prohibit political behavior from residents.

Bento Rubião Foundation director Ricardo de Gouvêa Corrêa explains that quality issues in the conventional Mina Casa Minha Vida units come from the fact that the developers for the units are contracted by the government, siphon funds by utilizing the poorest quality materials available, take no input from future residents, and that their incentive is to build where land is the cheapest. “Minha Casa Minha Vida was promoted as something that would boost Brazil’s economy through the civil construction sector,” adds Gouvêa. “But what it destroyed was high-quality housing.”

United Nations Rapporteur for the right to Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik reported to the UN General Assembly in 2012 that the global trend of privatizing government-subsidized housing into the hands of developers motivated by market incentives before the social aspects of housing “has contributed to a widespread bubble in real estate prices and a decrease in affordability and has done little to promote access to affordable adequate housing for the poorest.”

The vast majority of favela residents would rather see on-site infrastructure upgrades to their neighborhoods than move to Minha Casa Minha Vida housing projects. International urbanists and local officials agree—and it has been legislated as such—that on-site upgrades, rather than resettlement, are the best approach to addressing the infrastructure needs of the favelas. But upgrades inch along, and special legal guidelines designed to help ease the transition into formality for favela residents, called Zones of Special Social Interest, are only partially carried out in Rio such that residents see home and utility prices rise dramatically before they benefit from the improvement in services.

The affordable housing option the government continues to bankroll are the Minha Casa Minha Vida apartments. Of the Minha Casa Minha Vida budget, at most 5-10% each year is invested in Entidades co-operatives.

The Brazilian government’s commitment to affordable housing is due in large part to the work of the National Forum for Urban Reform, a coalition of social movements, urbanists, researchers, and human rights advocates that came together during the drafting of Brazil’s post-dictatorship constitution of 1988. They successfully advocated for an article about the social function of property that was followed by specific provisions for housing in cities. The Forum argued that existing urban informality developed from a need for land reform that dates back to the abolition of slavery, when black Brazilians were forbidden from owning property. The rural counterpart working for land reform in Brazil, the Landless Worker’s Movement (MST), is one of the largest social movements in Latin America.

Based on the principle of the social use of property, the Forum and its allies proposed a public fund for low-income Brazilians to purchase and reform homes, buy construction materials, urbanize informal settlements, buy group equipment, and conduct landholding regularization. They drafted the first constitutional bill of popular origin, and after thirteen years of advocating, the National Fund for Social Interest Housing (FNHIS) was created in 2005.

Near R$1 billion per year was set aside for FNHIS, and through programs called “Solidarity Credit” and “Support for the Social Production of Housing,” it began to fund self-managed affordable housing projects in vacant federal and city properties, such as the Rio co-ops Shangri-La, Mariana Criolo, and the early stages of Gamboa and Esperança. But the money and approval for these projects lagged and then decreased dramatically after President Lula announced the Minha Casa Minha Vida program, together with its Entidades offshoot, in 2009. “Today the Fund,” says Ricard Correia, “does not have funds.” Between 2008 and 2011, federal funding contracted 30,000 units of co-op housing and 449,000 units of privately contracted Minha Casa Minha Vida apartments.

Now, around R$1 billion annually is set to go toward the Entidades projects. Marcelo Edmundo of CMP, one of the coordinators of the Quilombo da Gamboa, worries that co-op funding that comes from a presidential program is less stable than a permanent fund that is codified into law. Ricardo Gouvêa says the source of the funding is less worrisome than whether it will actually be released. Although the FHNIS money, for example, was projected at R$4 billion between 2008 and 2011, only 7% of that money was actually used to build projects.

Gouvêa says the bureaucratic barriers to getting funding released for co-op housing projects are still maddening. This year members of the housing social movements were driven to protest in front of the federal bank Caixa Econômica Federal, which is responsible for financing Minha Casa Minha Vida, after it had stalled for years in processing completed paperwork for an Entidades building reform downtown. In 2011 Gouvêa was part of a group that traveled to Brasília and physically blocked Lula’s car to demand bottlenecked funding for another Entidades project. He recently saw eight months of delays simply trying to procure the correct documents for an Entidades environmental license, eventually traveling to the national capital. “The proportion of funding that is released for these projects is just not adequate,” Gouvêa says.

Preserving Affordability

Rio’s favelas, even those receiving upgrades–as well as the city’s public housing–have yet to see committed, legally clear, holistic measures to preserve affordability. In a standard Minha Casa Minha Vida apartment, residents can sell after five to ten years (although scandals of early sales abound across the country). In Quilombo da Gamboa and Grupo Esperança, residents can sell after ten years, although they are encouraged only to do so to others in need of subsidized housing.

When Columbia School of Architecture Dean Mark Wigley called affordable housing “the issue of our time” in a debate with Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes last month, he was referring not only to facilitating affordability but also to sustaining it.

Perhaps the best answer to whether conventional public housing in Rio is successfully addressing the city’s needs is the fact that despite its construction between 2000 and 2010, the city’s favela population grew over 27%, while the population of the rest of the city grew 7.4%. Furthermore, in many public housing units such as City of God, residents who had difficulty accessing urban resources such as jobs built additional brick units for workspace in the streets and adjacent areas to the extent that the community–originally public housing–became considered a “favela.” Residents frequently address the limitations of public housing design in Rio, adapting the built environment to their needs in “favela-style.”

To sustain the affordability of public housing, Marcelo Edmundo would prefer if collective property ownership were legal in Brazil. This is the case in Uruguay, where over 20,000 families are living in homes and apartments built through mutual aid: individual units can only be inherited or sold back to the group. The Uruguaian co-ops were studied, and their designers involved in a policy exchange with Rio architects, social movements, and public officials, during the creation of the Bento Rubião Foundation’s housing assistance program.

Many point out that Brazil’s strong tradition of individual property rights makes collective property ownership difficult to imagine politically. But it is not the only method of preserving housing affordability; Raquel Rolnik included several in her 2013 recommendations to the UN General Assembly. Another is responsible government care of informal rental housing (found in Rio’s favelas). Yet another is rent legislation and rent control. In addition, Rolnik describes in detail various types of housing cooperative systems that include group decision-making but vary in whether units are for rental or ownership, and whether finance support includes loans on materials, loans for individual family needs, and group savings.


Whether collective management of public housing projects, as currently exists in Gamboa and Esperança, should be fortified by the passing of collective land ownership in Brazil is an ongoing discussion among right to housing social movements and those who work in urban policy.

On November 21 through 23rd, Brasília hosted the National Conference of Cities, a triennial forum for citizens to debate and propose urban legislation. Committees in cities around the country that have been meeting for months came up with an agenda that recommended the consideration of a constitutional amendment that would allow collective property use, a permanent and robust National Fund for Urban Development that would add to existing FHNIS funds for housing and other social needs, and a national plan for regularizing land ownership that guarantees permanence to families and avoids expulsion by the real estate market.

“I’m almost certain that very little of the proposals will pass,” said Rio de Janeiro Federal University planning professor Orlando Santos Junior, a delegate from Rio, before the conference. The National Fund for Urban Development, for example, was proposed two conferences ago. At this conference, the base text for its foundation was voted in by the group.

Another recommendation Raquel Rolnik made to the United Nations this year was for the removal of bureaucracy in access to affordable housing methods. For example, in the regularization of informal rental markets, “states should…include in their housing programs incentives and subsidies to assist small-scale landlords to expand and improve habitability in rental accommodation,” and “encourage and support the use of standardized rental contracts, in order to reduce the number and severity of disputes between landlords and tenants. To that end, standard forms of contracts should be freely available and widely distributed and should not require notary approval.” This level of ease and clarity is the opposite, in fact, of the current difficulties in regularizing tenure in favelas as well as accessing funding for cooperative housing.

At a recent Quilombo da Gamboa meeting, future resident Aldair Alves gave a rousing speech to inspire his peers to accompany him to a government office downtown to check on the status of funding for construction: “The government is not just going to put things in your lap!” People applauded. “You have to go bang on their door and say, ‘I have a right to this.’”

Across the country, Entidades projects continue to move forward, according to an Observatório das Metropolis study done in São Paulo and Porto Alegre, creating “high-quality housing, self-esteem, social mobilization, and the vision of constructing a new city.” They are a testament to the power of committed neighbors and future neighbors that self-organize to address their needs, a power that, with clear and responsive government treatment, could be multiplied.

See full slideshow from Grupo Esperança:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.


Racism and Health in Brazil

For the original by Thamyra Thamara and Thiago Ansel in Portuguese for Observatório de Favelas click here.

Racial discrimination is a common theme both in TV dramas and news, which portray occasional attacks or conflicts in which prejudice plays a leading role. Fictional TV shows commonly feature white families who turn up their nose when a relative becomes involved with a black person, or show villains spouting a range of insults, some race-based. Racism is a topic on the news when there is a racially motivated crime, or when all other explanations for a crime have been exhausted.

In all these examples, racism is shown as a phenomenon which interrupts and violates the normal flow of daily life. But is racism really an exception? There seems to be a contradiction: the news shows race-based inequality in education, employment, healthcare, legal rights, among others. But rarely does it touch on the connection between problems faced by the black population and racism.

Why are racially-motivated attacks labeled as discrimination while statistical inequality in access to education and healthcare are not? Is racism really “outside the norm?” If we take the case of healthcare provided to black people by the public health system in Brazil it would seem not. Poor quality care is the norm and the statistics prove it. Violence, also the norm, has grave, often invisible and silent consequences.

Thiago Daniel de Almeida, 18, has been bedridden since he was hit by a stray bullet three years ago in Morro do Chapadão, in Costa Barros. His aunt, Tânia Cristina Daniel, who takes care of her nephew in addition to providing for 12 other people on her monthly income of R$1,300, says that Thiago had to wait a day to be seen by doctors simply because they thought he was a criminal. “They were waiting for him to die, thinking he was an outlaw,“ explains Tânia, who notes that her nephew could have been able to walk again since an orthopedist found his leg was still responding to stimulus.

“When I saw what Thiago was going through in the hospital I threw a fit. They killed my daughter and I wasn’t going to let them kill my nephew too,” says Tânia, recalling the sad story of her daughter Alessandra, who died after being incorrectly medicated in Carlos Chagas Hospital. Tânia also tells of how Thiago’s mother died 20 days after he was shot. She couldn’t stand the pain of seeing her son become a paraplegic.

According to the latest Annual Report on Racial Inequality (2009-2010), 67% of the black population in Brazil that had sought healthcare in the preceding two weeks had gone to a SUS public health institution. For hospital in-patient treatment, this rises to 79%. The report states that for every 100 that sought care in the public health system, 29 did not receive medical attention, even though they expressed necessity. Among whites, fewer than half of this number got no attention (14).

Sônia Fleury, of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), who oversaw a study on healthcare in the public health system (SUS) notes that sub-standard service is not an accident. “It is generally accepted that there are problems with the system. The poor conditions are used as an excuse for the flaws in the hospitals rather than as evidence of the institutionalized violence against poor and black citizens. We often hear it said that, ‘This is just the way public services are.’ It doesn’t have to be this way. Services should be of high quality. The poor quality is a political choice,” says Fleury.

The study concluded that the power to profile and choose patients renders the interaction more personal than simply demanding one’s right to healthcare. Criteria in determining patient priority tend to be less formal and thus open to discrimination. “All forms of discrimination, including racism, in healthcare cause a second layer of suffering,” concludes Fleury.

The fact that racism in these situations is not verbalized increases the victims’ sense of powerlessness. They feel unable to defend themselves from such nameless discrimination. According to Jurema Werneck, director of Criola, an organization for black women, doctor and member of the Technical Committee on the Healthcare for the Black Population, racism uses silence as a weapon: “Not talking about racism is one of the most efficient ways to promote it because it allows racial inequality to continue in silence and results in inertia. Showing the real significance of this shrouding and the normalization of inequality is an important step in combating discrimination and violence.

Studies of healthcare and other areas have shown that inaction and lack of debate on racism in any given institution have the effect of legitimizing discriminatory practices and promoting so-called institutional racism. This means the institution fails to provide appropriate services because of color, culture or ethnicity.

Jurema Werneck explains that correlating the data on inequality and racism is an important step, but it is not enough. “We must try to show evidence of the imbalance of power caused by racism and the impact of racism on healthcare; evidence of racism in the public healthcare system. We must also come up with a system of management for public institutions that will change the situation.”

Addressing inequality is one of the banners of the public healthcare system, the so-called equity principle of offering high-quality treatment to the most vulnerable sectors of the population. In terms of respect for black citizens, vulnerability has been caused and exacerbated by the reproduction of historic injustices in several areas. They have all essentially been authorized and have become familiar and “normal” because of the silence.

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Confusion Over Future of the UPP Program

Rio’s favela pacification policy–whereby specially trained Military Police occupy and then establish Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) to take territorial control over communities previously controlled by drug trafficking gangs or militia–has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months following the disappearance and torture of bricklayer Amarildo de Souza in Rocinha, cases of inappropriate use of force, and persistent reports of clashes between police and drug gangs in UPP neighborhoods. On Sunday, the Folha de São Paulo newspaper reported that the Rio State Security Secretariat was suspending the implementation of new units to try to “save” the program. The next day, on Monday afternoon, the Secretariat released a statement stating there would be no change to the program. Read below two translated news reports, both of which point to this difficult moment for the program and growing doubts over its future.  


Rio Military Police Freeze Creation of New Pacifying Police Units

For the original by Marco Antônio Martins in Portuguese in Folha de São Paulo click here.

Rio’s State Secretariat of Security has decided not to create new Pacifying Police Units (UPPs) in the next seven or eight months. During this period, the units’ command will undergo a series of measures to “save” the project.

The evaluation of the Military Police is that cases such as that of 43-year-old bricklayer Amarildo de Souza, who disappeared after being brought to Rocinha’s UPP base by police officers, as well as gunfights that have occurred in the Complexo do Alemão favela, have damaged the credibility of the program.

“The practices of Major Edson [dos Santos, ex-commander of the UPP in Rocinha and one of the people charged with the disappearance of Amarildo] destroyed the confidence of residents, and we need to recover it,” said the captain of the UPPs, Colonel Frederico Caldas.

Currently, there are 34 UPPs, with a total of 8,592 police officers.

At the end of the month, two more will be inaugurated: Lins and Camarista Meier, both in the North Zone. With this growth, the UPPs will comprise 15% of the total 60,000 military police officers.

Following this, the police do not intend to inaugurate new units for the next seven or eight months.

During this period, new military police that leave the police academy will be sent to the battalions and no longer to the pacification units in the favelas, as was happening until now.


Folha de São Paulo has learned, alongside the Secretariat of Security, that the units have received classification by colors.

Those that received a good evaluation are identified by the color green. Those that are in a situation of alert, yellow. And those considered poor are indicated by the color red.

Only two UPPs received the “green” classification: Santa Marta in the South Zone, the first UPP to be installed in 2008, and Batan in the West Zone.

The favelas of Rocinha in the South Zone of the city and the complexes of Alemão and Penha in the North Zone received the “red” classification.

The colonel, who has been UPP captain for three months taking up the post after the disappearance of Amarildo, presented to the State Security Secretary, José Mariano Beltrame, a diagnosis of the UPP situation and suggestions to preserve the program.

Among those suggestions are changes to how suspects are approached. The way in which the police act in this type of situation is favela residents’ main complaint in areas with UPPs. “Bringing any suspect to the UPP bases is prohibited,” confirmed Colonel Caldas.

In the case of Amarildo, according to investigations, the bricklayer was brought to the UPP Rocinha and tortured until death by police. Some officers who were in the adjacent room stated they had heard the torture. The body of Amarildo still has not been found.

During the evaluation by the UPP command, Colonel Caldas also established that some police circulate in the favelas without identification on their uniforms; others use private vehicles during supposedly official operations.

Despite all of this, the Colonel evaluated the problems that he’s faced during these 90 days in command of the UPPs as “specific” and that he has simply “shaken up” the functioning of the program. “Stability doesn’t necessarily mean everything is okay. It could be stable because the police is bought off, there is corruption, drug trafficking provides money, the illegal lottery pays,” he said.


The pacifying units of Rio’s Military Police have also suffered with the financial problems of the EBX group, owned by businessman Eike Batista.

A survey by the command established there are 38 cars off the road due to lack of maintenance.

The work was done by OGX, Eike’s petroleum company that went to the courts with a request for judicial settlement. With his companies in crisis, Eike Batista retracted the support he gave to the pacifying units.

Maintenance is now being done by the Military Police.

Another problem is that 10 UPPs continue functioning in temporary containers. “A base is needed that demonstrates the process is definitive,” affirmed the colonel.

Rio: Government Says Pacification Will Continue Despite Increase in Violence

For the original in Portuguese in Jornal do Brasil click here

This Monday afternoon, the Rio de Janeiro state government and the State Secretariat of Security released an official notice affirming that Rio’s public security policy will continue, despite the increase in violence that has been reported in recent weeks in the areas with Pacifying Police Units (UPP). In the notice, they confirmed the initial project of 40 UPPs will remain standing until the end of 2014, and that the favela Complexo da Maré, the area with the greatest number of reports of violence recently, will be occupied in the first trimester of the coming year.

At the weekend, an article in the newspaper Extra reported that part of the community of Pavão-Pavãozinho, occupied by a UPP, has already been retaken by drug trafficking, along with intimidation of residents. The commander of the UPPs, Colonel Frederico Caldas, affirmed the process of pacification is complicated, but it will not be interrupted.

At the beginning of the month, UPP coordinators transferred 70 police officers from the Rocinha unit to other areas of the South Zone due to the increase in tension between police and residents after the disappearance of bricklayer Amarildo de Souza on July 14. Following this occurrence, the reports of shootouts in the community have been constant, including some during the day. Also at the beginning of the month, a military police officer was killed in the Parque Proletário UPP, in the Complexo do Alemão favela.

Paes&Wigley capa

US Professor Pushes Mayor on Affordable Housing

Mark Wigley, the Dean of Architecture at New York City’s Columbia University, repeatedly advocated for more affordable housing in Rio de Janeiro in a debate with Mayor Eduardo Paes hosted by Columbia University at the Teatro Ipanema last Monday, October 28. Approximately 100 guests of Columbia University and the Mayor’s office attended the event, which was closed to the public but broadcast live online to an international audience.

Wigley opened the event with a presentation entitled “Generosity by Design,” emphasizing the need to create and promote generosity within the neighborhoods of cities. The mayor used the debate, organized by Columbia’s new Global Center in Rio de Janeiro, to showcase his Porto Maravilha project to revitalize the port area. He also touched on the challenges of hosting the Olympics and the World Cup within a two-year period, and his vision for a new form of democratic representation that harnesses the power of social media and technology. Wigley’s principle criticism of Paes was that he is not prioritizing affordable housing in the city’s redevelopment plans.

“Affordable housing is key to reduce the obvious line between those who have and those who have not,” Wigley stated, and said he envisioned an integrated port area with mixed housing that connected Brazil’s first favela, Providência, with the port itself. During his presentation, the mayor was very adamant that no public money would be spent on the port renovation, and that the project would be entirely funded through the private sector. Wigley suggested the mayor reconsider this approach and spend public money specifically targeted towards affordable housing.

The mayor pointed to the announcement on September 19 that 2,200 affordable housing units would be constructed in the port area through the Minha Casa Minha Vida federal housing program, but complained that affordable housing units always end up being bought from the poor by ‘rich boys.’ “Don’t come with laws telling them they cannot sell, because they do it,” he said. Participants in Minha Casa Minha Vida are legally bound to not sell their property for a 20-year period. Despite this, Paes said, “everybody does sell the house.” He acknowledged that his Special Advisor for Urban Issues, Washington Fajardo, “tells me there are ways we can control that… but I haven’t seen the solutions.”

Wigley and Paes also debated the role of favelas in Rio de Janeiro society. Both agreed that favelas are part of the solution to the city’s problems, but Wigley suggested that Paes could learn more from looking in the favelas for solutions. “The favela is better designed, more urban and more formal than the formal city,” he said claiming favelas are where the “intelligence of the city” is concentrated. “You have to be more intelligent to build a society on the side of a hill than to buy a condominium,” he said.

As part of the debate, Wigley and Paes fielded pre-selected questions from other Columbia Global Centers around the world via video. One such question from the Columbia Global Center in Mumbai asked how to approach solutions when favelas are located on “prime real estate.” “The idea that favelas occupy prime real estate is a criminal approach,” said Wigley, emphasizing their right to be there and the right to the city. The mayor lamented that bringing services and infrastructure to favelas in these areas causes gentrification, as has been seen in Vidigal and Chapéu Mangueira, and said it is a struggle to create mixed housing in Rio de Janeiro. “Sometimes I wish I was Fidel Castro and could force people to not sell their house and to live there forever,” he joked with the audience.

Paes’ skill as an orator championing the work of his administration was clear, however the image of Rio and the city’s work that Paes described to an international audience contradicted the experience of many on the ground. Lack of participation, forced evictions, abandoned or stalled public works and poor basic services are all consistent features of the interventions made by the current administration in the favelas, which have historically been and still are Rio’s single answer to affordable housing.

Although Paes did agree that the best approach to favelas was to bring basic public services to them on location, he made no specific mentions of program scope or deadlines, a sharp contrast to his April 2012 TED talk in which he pledged to bring upgrades to all of the favelas in Rio by 2020. The program to which he was referring in the TED talk, Morar Carioca, has been stalled for months with funding slashed for its signature participatory planning element.

The debate was the first hosted by the new Columbia Global Center in Rio de Janeiro, the latest collaboration between the city and the New York-based Ivy-league institution. Paes and Wigley first met back in 2009, when Paes invited Wigley to launch another Columbia initiative, Studio-X Rio, an urban-planning laboratory situated in Praça Tiradentes which, among other initiatives is involved in consultancy work with the Mayor’s Office.

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