Fonte: New York Times, The Opinion Pages, 03/04/2012 (somente em inglês)
Theresa Williamson, a city planner, is the founder and executive director of Catalytic Communities, a Rio de Janeiro-based organization that provides media and networking support to favela communities and publishes RioOnWatch.
Rio de Janeiro is preparing to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, and these mega-events give the nation’s elite a chance to speed up whatever strategies were already on their wish lists. In Rio, where real estate interests control the city’s politicians and media, decisions are made on their behalf.
About 1.2 million people, or 22 percent of Rio’s population, live in favelas. The only affordable housing solution capable of meeting Rio’s needs is to improve services and integrate the favelas; replacing them is not an option. Since the late 1800s, migrants have settled unoccupied land in and around Brazil’s cities. Residents invest heavily in their homes, over generations, even if a family does not hold a title to the land. These favela dwellers faced eviction during the military dictatorship from the ’60s to the ’80s but achieved a significant victory in 1988, when Brazil’s constitution established five years as the term for “adverse possession,” the process of acquiring ownership through use rather than through payment.
In preparing for the World Cup and the Olympics, Rio could make long-term investments and integrate the favelas. Instead it is aggravating its problems.
Much has been accomplished. A recent study of 92,000 people across six pacified favelas showed 95 percent of homes were brick and concrete, 75 percent had tile floors, 44 percent had computers, and 90 percent of working-age residents were employed. As the Chinese diplomat Sha Zukang exclaimed on a recent visit, “This is not a slum!”
In preparing for the World Cup and the Olympics, the city has an opportunity to make long-term investments and integrate the favelas, by providing the missing support services like education, job training, health care, day care and sanitation, in addition to security and land title. Instead, interventions toward the favelas are taking two counterproductive forms.
First, smaller, unknown, often peaceful communities occupying now-valuable land are forcibly evicted under the pretext of mega-event development, often with no clear justification. Residents are relocated to small, vertical, isolated public housing units two hours from the city center. There are also notable cases of evictees left homeless or starting over on newly squatted land. It is estimated that 170,000 people will be evicted “for” mega-events across Brazil.
Second, larger, well-known communities are receiving “integration” programs, mainly police pacification units. This increased police presence makes a favela safer, and thus makes the land more valuable and the rents higher. This is followed by the formalization of local businesses and payments for utilities. Next up is land title. The result: a fast track to gentrification, publicly funded under the auspices of “combating poverty” and “integrating the city.”
Rio will apparently be “made safe for the Olympics” by pushing its lowest-income residents to peripheral areas, where crime is also heading. Here in Brazil, and especially in Rio, we have a tradition of inequality — and its natural consequence, crime — and it appears the upcoming mega-events will only exacerbate it.
It would be much more creative, cost-effective and empowering if resources were targeted to participatory integration. That would be an Olympic legacy to be proud of: Rio would offer a model to be applied around the globe. With U.N.-Habitat predicting that 3 billion people will live in slums by 2050, the world could use such leadership.