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Brazil: Road to World Cup and Olympics Paved with Forced Evictions

In the run up to Brazil's World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016, thousands of people are being forcefully evicted from their homes to make room for office buildings, stadiums and roads. Video activists are making a stand, producing documentaries to raise awareness, inform and empower communities at risk of eviction.

WITNESS has partnered with Habitat International Coalition and several local organizations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to train local activists in video advocacy to fight forced evictions caused by development projects in preparation for the events. The videos are all captioned in English.

Jorge stands in front of his flooded house where his neighborhood used to stand. Documentary still.

Jorge stands in front of his flooded house where his neighborhood used to stand. Documentary still.

Although development projects can mean improved conditions for the general population, for those who get evicted, it can means human rights abuses, as WITNESS describes on their campaign site:

A project being developed on their land, on their homes, is often about the destruction of communities, the disruption of lives, and the impoverishment of people. These development projects result in the forced eviction of an estimated 15 million people each year.  Forced evictions are involuntary, and regularly do not uphold obligations to fairly compensate, resettle and rehabilitate people and the physical and social infrastructures that once made them a community. Human rights abuses such as a lack of adequate housing, no access to water, schools or hospitals, can be the results of a forced eviction.

In the following video, Program Manager Priscila Néri shows us the day when the training comes together. After receiving instruction on the theory on how to produce a documentary film and plan their shoot, the activists head out to record the images and make the interviews that will bring to life the stories of the people in Canal do Anil, in Rio’s West Zone where community leaders tell how they were able to make a stand and resist forced evictions from the 2007 Pan-American  Games. A Portuguese version available through UniversalSubtitles.

The people of Restinga, through the Brazilian human rights network ‘Plataforma Dhesca Brasil’ are able to tell their story. They were forcefully evicted before any sort of compensation was worked out, and their homes and businesses were demolished to build a highway as they stood outside in the street, as they say, thrown out like garbage.

In Morro da Providencia, the city is building a cable car: however, the community was never asked for their opinion on the project, and it was not planned with their approval, which goes against Brazilian law. Now their homes have been tagged for demolition but no-one has discussed with them what will happen once their homes go. The people of Morro da Providencia, many of whom were born there insist that they are not against development, but against how this development is taking place through the violation of their rights.

Favela do Metro has been slowly demolished as families leave. Facing the option of receiving some compensation if they leave, or being homeless if they don't, many have started to trickle out of the favela. However, those who are left have to deal with rubble filled lots in their neighborhood, as the government insists that they will not remove it until all have left, as yet another way to pressure inhabitants to leave. And sadly, it is those in poverty, those who depend on their housing who are more at risk when the government decides they need a new project development.

Jorge, who lives in Vila Recreiro 2 speaks of how only 12 families out of 235 are still resisting the forced evictions. He tells of the lives of those who have left already, whose children can't go to school because they've been relocated in places where the local schools don't have room for them, and they are too far from their previous school. Some are commuting long hours and others have lost their jobs. Currently, his house is constantly flooded and the construction crews have blocked his water and sewage systems. All he asks for are his rights as a citizen according to Brazilian law, and he repeats a situation already heard in other areas: the government never discussed their plans with the communities they were going to remove.

Beyond the videos are the strategies generated from the video workshop in how to get their message out and reach their intended audiences. As narrated in the blog post “Forced Evictions Training in Rio: Social Activism as Samba” by Mary Allison Joseph:

Over the course of the training, participants collectively identified Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, as the main target of the advocacy campaign as he is the actor with the most direct power to halt forced evictions. Participants then strategically determined to target three groups through video campaigns: Rio’s Judiciary, affected communities, and international stakeholders, all of who hold significant sway over Paes. These target audiences formed the basis of three Video Action Plan groups, each leaving the training with detailed video campaigns. Together these video campaigns represent concrete, strategic steps across Rio’s social movements to change local policy during the City’s preparation for the mega-events.

Videos are available on Priscila's WITNESS YouTube channel.

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