Yesterday evening, Thursday June 16, Vidigal residents gathered at the square at the bottom of the favela in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro to hear a discussion with candidates for president of the Vidigal Neighborhood Association. It is the community’s second democratic election after the arrival of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) in 2012 and comes at critical moment as the favela deals with increasing pressures due to real estate speculation and gentrification.
The debate had four parts: introductions, candidate-to-candidate questions, resident-to-candidate questions, and concluded with final words.
The election for president of the Vidigal Neighborhood Association will be held Sunday, June 19 and there are seven chapas, or political groups, in the running. Voters will get another chance to hear each group’s platform at the final debate tonight, Friday, June 17th at 7pm.
“People don’t give importance to the democratic process and that is exactly where they have to pay attention because it has a direct impact on their daily lives,” said André Mauricio Gosi, the current social and cultural director of the Vidigal Neighborhood Association.
All of the candidates agreed that the community’s three most pressing issues were limited transportation, a need for better education, and improvements to the family clinic. But each offered different approaches.
The candidates for Chapa 1 were Romilson Vidigal for President and Rosanjela Reis for Vice President. “We will not work alone, we do not want to work alone,” said Reis. Both Vidigal and Reis expressed a strong alliance with the organization Grupo Novos Desafios.
Chapa 1 expressed their plan to improve Vidigal by making sure all resident voices are heard and aggregate all of the ideas and ideals of everyone in the community.
Candidates for Chapa 2 were Deley Ferreira for President and Beto da Igreja for Vice President. “Chapa 2 is the only one that has all of its directors within the directory of the Neighborhood Association,” said da Igreja. Ferreira and da Igreja said they plan to provide extracurricular activities for young people in the community beyond the existing Vila Olímpica. They believe that the family clinic should be expanded and want to meet resident demands for more child care.
Chapa 3’s presidential candidate is the founder of VDG Community TV, Marta Alves. She said her group’s slogan is “Valuing Traditions” and plans to focus on the community’s art and culture by revitalizing the abandoned cultural center. Under the leadership of Chapa 3 the Neighborhood Association “would work with open doors and always together.” Chapa 3 also wants to increase the number of preparatory courses for the university entrance exams, begin an animal adoption fair in Vidigal’s main square, and partner with organizations to provide castration programs for animals.
The candidate for Chapa 4 is Jonas Barcelos, or JB, who has been involved in the association for years. “The purpose of a Neighborhood Association president is to be a manager of a community,” said Barcelos.“I promise to work.”
Sebastião Aleluia, the association’s current vice president, is Chapa 5’s presidential candidate and considered the continuation of the current Association, carrying the current directors with him with the exception of the current president, Marcelo da Silva, who is leaving to care for family matters. “We have to have the humility to admit that we haven’t done everything, but we’ve advanced a lot. If we hadn’t, how would I have the courage to look you in the eye and run for this position,” said Aleluia. He has three main objectives: electricity, garbage, and traffic planning
Neguinho do Gelo, running on Chapa 7, believes that “work and unity” will bring change to Vidigal and wants the community to become economically self-sufficient and “without any dependency on public services.” Neguinho owns an ice factory, restaurants, and hostels within Vidigal, and hopes to create more jobs.
The presidential candidate running on Chapa 6, Carlene Gomes, was unable to attend Thursday’s debate. Voters can expect to see Gomes at the next debate today.
Speaking after the debate, resident Juliana Pereira praised the event for being well organized and said: “It allowed us to form an idea of what mattered to each candidate… It was good because usually we only know the cadidates that are from the areas we live in.”
The election will be held on Sunday June 19 between 9am and 5pm at the Almirante Tamandaré School in Vidigal.