FINANCIAL CAPITAL LOOTS RIO DE JANEIRO
By: Raúl Zibechi
In less than a decade Río de Janeiro has suffered three large events that modify its features: the Pan American Games in 2007, the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. Financial capital takes advantage of that succession of sports mega-events in so short a time to remodel one of the most beautiful cities in the world, where it obtains enormous profits and provokes irreparable damage to the poor.
This month the Rio Popular Committee of the Cup and the Olympics launched the fourth dossier titled Mega-events and Human Rights Violations in Río de Janeiro (comitepopulario.wordpress.com). Throughout the 170 pages it analyzes the principal consequences that the events are having on the city and its population, at the same time that it reveals those who benefit from the million-dollar works that the FIFA and the International Olympic Committee, among others, impose.
“The sports mega-events mark the return of the most violent form of contempt for housing rights in the city,” can be read at the beginning of the dossier. We’re talking about a “social cleansing” that consists in relocating the poor to open opportunities for businesses of the large corporations, in “noble” zones like Barra da Tijuca, Jacarepaguá and the historic center, while it moves them to far away zones where they must begin their lives over again from nothing. As of now almost 5,000 families are displaced from 29 communities, with another 5,000 threatened with eviction.
The Cup Committee supports the desolate communities with studies and analysis, but its members also put their bodies on the line to resist the bulldozers that knock down homes. Women are at the head of the resistance, like Inalva Britos, in Vila Autódromo, and Alessandra in Providencia Hill. In the popular barrios the women sell food in the neighborhood or they make artesanía, a strategy for survival that they will not be able to continue in the desolate “barrios” of the Mi Casa Mi Vida program. Resisting is a question of life.
Río is the city most affected by real estate speculation. The price of housing rose 65 percent between 2011 and 2014 compared to an average of 52 percent in Brazil. The price of rent rose 43 percent, compared to 26 percent in São Paulo. The list of works is impressive: two stadiums (Olympic and Maracaná), the Olympic Village and Port Maravilla; six light train lines, expansion of the metro and of the freeways or rapid urban highways: all financed with public money.
Just the remodeling of Maracaná in Río demanded 1 billion 50 million reals (470 million dollars). The public works budget increased 65 percent since the 2010 budget, reaching the astronomical number of 1 billion 500 million dollars just for public works on the World Cup and the Olympics. The principal beneficiaries are the large construction companies: Odebrecht, OAS, Camargo Corrêa and Andrade Gutierrez, coincidentally, those that make large contributions to the political parties in electoral campaigns.
Odebrecht has completely remodeled Maracaná, which also manages the enclosure. It (Odebrecht) also shares with Andrade Gutierrez the construction and management of the Olympic Village, management of Olympic stadium with OAS, and even 20 large public works in Río de Janeiro, hundreds in the 12 cities that are World Cup seats, including new airports and hotels. Just the new Terminal 3 at Guarulhos Airport (São Paulo) had, as of now, a cost of 1 billion 500 million dollars.
None of this can be done without repression. The Army’s occupation of the Complexo da Maré (130,000 inhabitants in 16 favelas), until the World Cup ends, is hardly the action the population knows best. This week, the government of Río state reported on the incorporation of eight new armored vehicles for the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE, its initials in Spanish), which will be used in the “pacification of the favelas” operations(O Globo, 24/06/14).
In the four months prior to the Mundial, the Secretary of the State of Río reported 4,250 compulsory admissions of homeless people, who are transported to a shelter 70 kilometers from the city’s center, where, according to the dossier of the Cup Committee, they are lodged in precarious conditions and suffer torture practices.
“Río de Janeiro is becoming a more expensive and unequal city all the time,” the dossier of the Cup Committee points out. A fractured, conflictive city as happened at the recent Carnaval, when more than 70 percent of the 14,000 garbage collectors went on strike. After eight days of harsh conflict and disqualifications, one of the categories of low-paid workers obtained a 37 percent increase in their base salary, which is still barely 500 dollars. Despite the pressures, the enormous encampment of 4,000 people organized by the MTST (Movimiento de Trabajadores Sin Techo) three kilometers from the Itaquerão Stadium.
While half of the World Cup is still in dispute, demonstrations have decreased and the number of people mobilized is less than in previous weeks. Even so, the protests are far from disappearing. The success of the days in June 2013 is not forgotten; they stopped the increase in tickets for urban transportation, but in reality they were questioning the city model that capital is imposing with support from a broad coalition of parties.
A recent MTST communiqué, which maintains an encampment of 400 people in front of the municipal chamber demanding affordable housing, assures that its struggle did not begin with the World Cup, nor will it end with when it’s over. “We reaffirm that the big legacy of the World Cup was the real estate speculation and urban exclusion.”
After July, when the ball stops rolling and the fires of the media artifice die out, Brazilians will return to their everyday life, paying abusive prices for very bad transportation. The resistance to the recent urban extractivism begins.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, June 27, 2014