It’s Absurd! Cable Car Stations Will Become Police Bases? [TRANSCRIPTION]

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The text below is a transcription of Raull Santiago’s live broadcast on Facebook on March 29, 2017 at 12:15pm. Santiago was featured in The New York Times Magazine in 2015.

Good afternoon everyone, I am starting this live video to share some information, something urgent that we just found out here in Complexo do Alemão. The cable cars in Complexo do Alemão will possibly be converted to UPP police bases. This type of situation is unacceptable. The police came in 2010 as a solution to violence and has ended up aggravating even more the reality of the people here, now with the collapse of the state, with the collapse of the country especially within the poorest areas, and the closing of the project that was showcased around the entire world—the cable car in Alemão, which has been closed for about one year now—we find out that these spaces may become bases for the UPP.

You know what is bizarre? When some people got together to try and occupy empty lots where homes had existed before, the state removed those people from those lots, didn’t guarantee them homes, and when they tried to reoccupy this space in the Poesia area, the government ordered the police to forcibly remove everyone. At the same time, all the cable car stations, with various rooms and excellent infrastructure, were empty.

Several social projects here in Complexo do Alemão, incredible and wonderful ones like Mariluce Mariá that works with kids and also Papo Reto itself, and a series of other projects, don’t have headquarters. They don’t have a base to work from. They have to depend on the help of people who have rooftop balconies, they have to do their jobs on the streets being very alert to shootouts. In the midst of this, these cable car rooms are closed and empty.

Now, everyone that works there, including security guards who are from here and work at the cable car stations, have received a notice of their job termination. The people are going to be unemployed. Why? Because the cable car, built with our public money that was supposed to change the reality of Complexo do Alemão, to incentivize tourism, and to reduce violence… The cable car that was created for mobility and didn’t live up to this intended role, and has now been closed for more than a year, will now turn into a military base. That is, the only public policy we can count on to always be present in Complexo do Alemão, is the police.

The government, the state, is only looking at favelas and observing us through the lens of the police. This has become increasingly serious. It is absurd what is happening. It is an extreme situation. Society can’t ignore this militarization of everyday life. This non-appreciation of public money. The millionaire investment with various schemes and this giant corruption that will become just another Military Police base so dubious, so corruptso violent, and so problematic.

We cannot shut up in the face of this situation, we have to organize ourselves, mobilize on several fronts, why not! The UPP already has its bases constructed in partnership with the excellent Eike Batista. The UPP is at the top of Alvorada invading and expelling residents from their homes. The UPP is an absurdity, ripping out shipping containers, those armored shipping containers, and throwing them within favelas and now they’re taking over the cable cars. And amazingly, this was an agreement that was already underway. In the cable car station in Palmeiras for example, there was a Family Clinic, there was a library, and the police was beginning to invade and exchange gunshots in there. The police would invade the cable car stations, open fire in there, and made that place become a target. And in fear, the library closed. Afraid, the Family Clinic closed down. With fear, every cultural and health program that existed in there was stifled. The police were already occupying that space.

The same thing…in Alemão’s cable car station in Central…All of the services, everything that was actually proving useful for the people of the favela, which was for the use of the people, for the public, left. Because the police invades to shoot from the top of the cable cars and transforms it into a war base…And it brings violence to these places, that were places of another form of resistance–with culture, with art, with services and various things. And in Alemão, it has been years that the police use the base of the cable cars for their police trainings, as dormitories, as various things for their internal corporation.

So it’s not news, unfortunately, that soon–everyone was already predicting it—that this was going to become another stage of the militarization of everyday life. I’m sorry to tell everyone who believes that this is the way forward, (but) it is not. This is only going to create more violence, more trouble. This police is problematic. We do not discuss harm reduction. We do not discuss drug policy. We do not discuss the reduction of social inequality. We do not discuss racism, we don’t discuss human rights that we don’t have. It’s really fighting for our rights, and none of these things are being discussed. Only in the name of the War on Drugs do you send army tanks, send the police, invade homes, and create a bizarre situation here in Complexo do Alemão.

This video is a cry for help, it’s to let off steam. The situation is very complicated, even for those involved with social movements, even for activists, even for anyone.

It is really difficult to resist in the middle of the current situation of this city. And not resisting is a problem because people will lean more and more towards revolt, towards hate, and it will be much more difficult to build something different from our current situation. We desperately need to rescue our network of affection. A network of respect. A network of valuing life. A network of valuing people. We need to unite, mainly the favelas. The favelas have to find a way. Especially those who are favela activists engaged in independent communications, we have to find a way, despite the difficulties of meeting up, to unite and build together. Only last week, in different favelas, a ton of youth were killed. Many young people were falsely incriminated, sold as traffickers. The media dictated the story and everything passed (for truth). Every day we die several times. Our body is killed by bullets, our image is forged and linked to crime. The entire structure of our family dies when our image is multiplied by the world as problematic. Once our identities are forged, the media helps sell this, and makes this idea widely accepted.

Bullet capsules were left on the streets of Complexo do Alemão after a confrontation in February 2017 (Photo: Betinho Casas Novas of Voz das Comunidades)

So we have to unite…with the whole society, because those who are dying are in favelas, those who are taking bullets, those who are having their daily lives militarized, those whose children aren’t going to school, those who aren’t able to be on the streets. Everyone is held hostage by the war on drugs that for years—during my 28 years—the police conduct shootouts, confrontation, problems, people die, an absurd spending of public money, and nothing is solved. Why? Because it’s wrong, it’s not a war on drugs, it’s a war on the poor, a war on Black people, it’s an imprisonment of poor bodies and the execution of poor bodies that are primarily Black. So we have to get into the debate.

We have to pull from the energy that we have left and the few left alive and unite ourselves to build something different from this. And try as hard as we can to bring society to recognize the reality and gravity of what is happening within favelas.

It is unacceptable that such an expensive project, a project that was sold to the whole world, a project that was built with your money, my money, with an intention of change, was only talk. The reality was only the militarization of poor spaces, the reality was only the control of the people. It was another way of increasing inequality from the control of poverty in an armed and violent way. That is very wrong. We need to discuss this. We need to unite. We can’t accept that the cable cars turn into a police base. In front of each cable car station is already a police base.

Those cute cable car structures created in partnership with Eike Batista’s corporations, so pretty right? Wasn’t it cool in 2010? Didn’t everyone hug? Didn’t we applaud those new moments in Complexo do Alemão?

It’s a shame (policy) was limited only to those periods, during those applauses. Too bad it remained just a discourse, because the reality that spoke about various public policies that would come to the favela culminated only in policing. The police that was always the problem, changed only its discourse and said “now the police is one of proximity, it’s cool, it’s good, and it will stay in there.” None of this (happened), no one believed it, and the proof, unfortunately, is here today: the failure of all this public security that never involved us. When they say “public security” they’re only talking about from the entrance of the favela outwards, and we are sold as the problem. This is wrong. This needs to change. The favela is a solution.   

Today whoever was watching the Globo TV show with Fátima Bernades, saw Luiz, the incredible male ballet dancer, (who was) wonderful. In the middle of such a problematic space like this, within a project called Vidançar, (Luiz, a resident of Alemão) was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet School in Joinville. In the midst of this (police occupation) there are so many amazing things happening here. There are incredible people. There are incredible projects. There is entrepreneurship of all kinds. There is resistance of culture, of art, of various forms. But all of this is silenced when we are seen from outside in, seeing us as dangerous and thinking that the only public policy that the favela deserves is the police. Enough is enough!

We need help from whoever is up for it, and this help needs to be way beyond social media. We need to think how! Our work, on social media, wherever our voices reach, wherever we can strengthen and compete in this city, dispute these problems and claim our rights. Not only for favelas, but for everyone. Don’t be deceived that when things are bad for the favela, it won’t go down to the asphalt (formal city). Don’t be deceived that the problems of the asphalt aren’t related to the non-valorization of life inside the favela, and that those problems don’t have consequences for the guarantee of rights in here.

We need to open our eyes and understand that the system has failed. That all of this is wrong and that there are people bleeding, dying for, and also profiting from these deaths. We need to stop this. We are only going to move forward with investment in the arts, culture…We will rescue the image  of our country in the world if we guarantee the life of the people here at the base, the life of the poor who are the ones dying, those that are suffering, living all the possible outrages, so that a minority live at the top…while social inequality makes our blood pour out.

It’s increasingly difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel while living in this situation. We need help, we need everyone. We need help people! Watching the cable cars become a police base here at Alvorada?! Whoever is following Papo Reto, whoever is following the Public Defenders Office, knows that police have invaded more than 10 houses, kicked people out, elderly people, houses full of children. Officers invaded these places to transform them into military bases, shoot from above the houses and turn these houses into targets. It is all wrong. There’s not the slightest strategy that is advancing amidst this failed war on drugs.

We have to discuss other forms, we have to refrain from this deceptive line of war on drugs as a solution for something. Quite the opposite, this is what sustains the problem. This is what favors the arms companies, what favors the Security Secretariat, what favors war-profiteers who profit from blood. We need to stop this trend. War on Drugs is nothing, we are going to discuss the politics of drugs, we will discuss ours rights, we will discuss racism, we will discuss the reduction of social inequality, we will discuss whatever as long as it is different from this logic of war and militarization of popular spaces, militarization of the favela, militarization of the daily life of the poor.

We need help from you, we need to prevent the problems that escalate to levels where we will no longer be able to contain them. The situation that is happening, already is a war, and this name isn’t accepted out there, but it is a war. Here, as many or more people die than in Syria, in Palestine. We are at war, Rio de Janeiro executes the poor every day. We have…a government’s war against the poor, a war of who has a lot of money and does not want to lose the benefits so they increase social inequality that breeds blood within favelas and peripheries of the whole country.

We need to restructure, based on our right to life, the appreciation of people that are here at the base, mainly working to put an end to racism and…prejudice and for that we have to understand, respect, listen to the people here within the favelas screaming these atrocities that are happening, exposing the violations of the state itself. We need to be together, we need to find a way because the path that we are traveling now has the tendency to worsen. The tendency to turn to violence that is already at an absurd level will become even greater. And it will not work, it’s not working. We need to be together. We need to find a way and bring everyone who wants to join in to build, beyond social media, a path of truth that makes this change possible.

I made this live video, I said it all venting, my bad, but it’s because the situation is absurd. We are dying every day. We are being forged every day. They kill our bodies, stain our images, destroy our families, and we can’t take it any more. We must end this violent scenario, based on our right to life, based on discussing drug policies, racism, social inequality. The guarantees of our rights need to move forward.

The war on drugs is only bringing more violence. The war on drugs is the fuel of evil. We need to end this. No to the militarization of the cable car stations. If the state is going to have control over the cable cars, it should be to make them work again. Even if they weren’t so useful to us locals, that was the initial purpose. Let’s democratize access to those rooms for the homeless, for social projects that don’t have a work space. Let’s make change with art, culture, and appreciation of people. No to the military occupation of the cable cars in Complexo do Alemão. We are together. É nós!

Brother, don’t share just this video. Get your tools to fight, get all the contacts you have here in the community, Voz da Comunidade, Mariluce Mariá, Raízes em Movimento, EDUCAP, whoever is your partner, Ocupa Alemão, who is your partner here, look for your partners. Let’s see how we can provide support (to each other), let’s together resist this absurdity that is happening here in the favela and in so many other Rio favelas. Look for the contacts that you all have, let’s exchange ideas, let’s think. Let’s think together how we can get out of this absurd situation that is happening here. É nós!

Thank you to Juliana Ritter for the transcription and translation.