Rio de Janeiro’s candidates for mayor are going head to head in the run-off elections this Sunday, October 30. Marcelo Freixo and Marcelo Crivella have voters divided. First for their political orientation: Freixo is from the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), a party on the left of the political spectrum, while Crivella is from the PRB, a Republican party from the center-right. Beyond this, they differ in their proposals, a difference that is accentuated in what they say about the city’s favelas. While Freixo mentions the word favela 19 times in his program and provides specific governmental proposals for them or policies that would be implemented there first, Crivella doesn’t mention the word even once in his program and doesn’t provide proposals that take favelas and their particular characteristics into consideration.
Francielle and Diego, both residents of Muzema, in Rio’s West Zone, say at the moment they prefer the PRB candidate. “I don’t understand much, I just vote because I have to,” says Diego, reflecting a symptomatic disinterest that’s quite widespread in these elections. But to him, the fact that Crivella is religious gives him higher chances of doing “good things” in the city administration. “But actually I think that neither of the two is interested. They make promises, but they know there’s no way to keep them. I know because I’m a father. Not everything I promise my son I manage to deliver,” he concludes.
Francielle, on the other hand, fears certain political stances taken by the PSOL, Freixo’s party, such as the defense of the decriminalization of drugs, although it isn’t the city government’s responsibility to decide on such matters. She sees positively, however, the fact that Freixo has specific proposals for favelas, saying that their situation is precarious, but fears, just like Diego, that it’s “just talk.” Even so, she adds: “Crivella doesn’t say anything about favelas, but during his term he could start doing something, right? Even Eduardo Paes did something here”.
Érika, a resident of Mangueira, in Rio’s North Zone, said that she analyzed the proposals of both candidates and that the most evident characteristic is the superficiality of Crivella’s proposal against the depth of Freixo’s. “At this moment, I’m more likely to vote for Freixo since his proposals are more concrete and objective in relation to the peripheral areas,” she stated. She says that the plans can’t be the only issue at hand for electing a candidate, however: “If Freixo were elected we can’t create expectations of living in a paradise, since governing such a diverse city like ours goes well beyond planning. Neither of the two plans provide a profound analysis of the risks that could impede their success.”
Gizele, a resident of Maré, also in the North Zone, echoes these reservations. “I personally believe that no government will govern for the whole population, especially for the poor. I don’t believe in the State as a guarantor of rights for the poor majority,” she states. Gizele believes, however, that a left-leaning administration is more likely to guarantee a minimum of rights to the poorest population than a right-leaning administration.
For Érika, in a similar manner, the political system is made for the elite to maintain their elite privileges. “Crivella wants to bring about a new kind of old politics. To leverage vocational education, to train more cooks, seamstresses, builders. This has been said for decades. We don’t want to specialize in serving. We want options, opportunities, to explore our many potentials, and we want these potentials to be encouraged.” The way she sees it, the solution lies in more effective management of structures that already exist, and not in ambitious new programs: “I like Freixo’s proposals that talk about leveraging what already exists in the favela. The collective way of administering the favela territories, even if society denies it, has taught lessons to many public administrators. This recognition of cultural, social and intellectual production inside the favela already demonstrates a unique way of looking at us.”
Gizele sees Crivella using the church as a platform to gain popularity, mainly among the poorest, and believes that he shouldn’t mix religion with politics. “I saw that over a year the mayoral candidate Marcelo Freixo studied the city, did research, interviewed residents, held public debates, organized discussions, heard from those that need their rights upheld the most, which is us, favela residents, who for the last five years have suffered some of the most brutal evictions in the city’s history,” she said. Despite believing in the importance of this candidate’s strategy, Gizele believes this gave him fewer opportunities to seek out popularity and proximity with the lower classes, which Crivella sought out via television and through the groundwork of his church in the favelas.
Érika fears the actions of this church if Crivella were elected: “The Universal Church often promotes the denial of our ancestral history as blacks and puts the subject in a place to judge the private choices of other individuals. I fear that making this a part of the city administration would mean placing the city government as a tutor and restricting agent of our will as individuals.”
Érika hopes that Marcelo Freixo’s discourse translates into practice, in the event he is elected. “If we are going to govern with him, in his words, perhaps what’s actually emerging is a participatory democracy?”