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‘Enough Forced Evictions!': Amnesty International Takes On Brazil World Cup Construction

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

While many Rio de Janeiro residents, known as cariocas, are looking forward to the exciting games, colorful banners, and renovated stadiums of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in the city, other less fortunate Brazilians will remember the event forever with grief and indignation over losing their homes for event construction.

Launch of the campaign Basta de Remoções Forçadas ! in front of the Deputy Chamber of Rio de Janeiro, in Cinelândia. Photo by AF Rodrigues share by Amnesty International Brazil

Launch of the campaign Basta de Remoções Forçadas! (ativismo.anisitiabrasil.org.br) in front of the Deputy Chamber of Rio de Janeiro, in Cinelândia. Photo by AF Rodrigues, shared by Amnesty International Brazil.

According to Amnesty International Brazil, 19,200 families have been removed since 2009 in the city of Rio de Janeiro as the city makes space for the infrastructural demands, such as road and parking lot construction and the revitalization of Rio's port, considered necessary improvements for hosting the World Cup and the Olympics.

As a response to these removals, Amnesty International Brazil has launched the campaign Basta de Remoções Forçadas! (Enough Forced Evictions!). Renata Neder, representative of the human rights branch of Amnesty International Brazil, stated:

Há evidências de situações de violação do direito à moradia e remoções forçadas na cidade do Rio de Janeiro em decorrência de grandes intervenções urbanas e preparação para os megaeventos esportivos. A campanha quer chamar a atenção das autoridades locais para violações que já aconteceram e evitar que elas se repitam

There is evidence of the violation of the right of property and forced evictions in the city of Rio de Janeiro as a consequence of the large urban interventions and organization in light of the mega-sports-events. The campaign wants to call the attentions of local authorities to such violations and to avoid that they are repeated

More than 19,000 families have been displaced since 2009 in Rio de Janeiro, according to the city government itself. A public hearing at the City Council on "Removals by Big Projects in Rio de Janeiro" took place on September 27. Shared by Racismo Ambiental (CC BY-NC 2.5 br)

More than 19,000 families have been displaced since 2009 in Rio de Janeiro, according to the city government itself. A public hearing at the City Council on “Removals by Big Projects in Rio de Janeiro” took place on September 27. Shared by Racismo Ambiental (CC BY-NC 2.5 br)

Amnesty International's campaign focuses mostly on the Providência and Vila Autódromo communities in Rio that are directly affected by the construction of the Transoeste [en] express bus route. The fast transit route connects Rio’s port area in the northern part of the city to the rich Barra da Tijuca neighborhood in the western part, where most of the Olympic Games’ infrastructure will be located.

The report points out that families removed by the construction of the Transoeste were not properly informed about what was going to happen, receiving short-term eviction notices, being relocated to areas extremely far away or were given inadequate compensation, when they received a compensation at all.

The campaign calls for the signing of a petition addressed to Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, asking for proper legal guarantees for the families and for the immediate halt of forced evictions.

The campaign also gained momentum on the Facebook page of Acorda Brasil (Wake up Brazil):

E se fosse a sua casa?

Moradores do Morro da #Providência, na zona portuária do Rio de Janeiro, reclamam da falta de transparência e da imposição dos projetos sem prévia negociação com a comunidade diretamente afetada: “Eles só chegaram para mostrar: ‘Isso é o que nós temos. Esse é o projeto que vai ser inserido, queiram vocês ou não'. Não houve participação, [o projeto] já chegou pronto. A #comunidade não participou de nada.

What if this was your home?

Residents of the Providência community in Rio’s port area are protesting against the lack of transparency and the imposition of projects without prior negotiation with the community directly affected by it: “They only showed us: ‘This is what we have. This is the project that is going to take place whether you like it or not’. There was no participation, [the project] was presented in its completed phase. The community did not participate at all.”

Amnesty International also published anonymous statements of residents on its site. Read one of them below:

De uma certa forma, eu perdi a minha casa por causa da Copa. Eu não consigo mais sentir aquela alegria com a Copa depois disso…” (Jorge Santos, ex-morador da Vila Recreio II, morava lá há 16 anos). Jorge foi o último morador a ser removido. Ele e mais 11 famílias só receberam a indenização no final de 2012, mais de um ano depois da remoção da comunidade.

In a way, I lost my home because of the World Cup. I can’t even feel happy about the Cup after this… (Jorge dos Santos, former resident of Vila Recreio II, lived there for 16 years). Jorge was the last resident evicted. He and another 11 families only received compensation at the end of 2012, more than a year after they were removed.

Evicted community in the west of Rio for the construction works of the Olympics 2016. Photo on Flickr by UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Evicted community in the West Zone of Rio for the construction works of the Olympics 2016. Photo on Flickr by UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

On Twitter, the debate on forced eviction gained momentum under the hashtags #direitoamoradia (#righttoahome) and #remoções (#evictions).

Rádio Debate (@radiodebate), a daily radio show from the University of Ceará, tweeted:

Between 150 and 170,000 people are threatened with losing their homes. Government and city council do not confirm this information. #direitoamoradia

A Twitter account that shares human rights updates in Brazil (@direitoshumanos) tweeted a video by the Rio People's World Cup and Olympics Committee (Comitê Popular Rio Copa e Olimpíadas) with:

The Truth about the #evictions in Rio de Janeiro – “114 videos, One Only Story”: http://t.co/wFJNeKhmnrhttp://t.co/VXhFnbQMLo

What is important to remember about the debate is that the issue at stake here isn’t the modernization of Rio’s infrastructure, which is needed for harboring large international events, but the extremely questionable manner in which it is being carried out, often without the consent of people living in the communities who suffer evictions without the proper legal safety-nets, such as adequate compensations and even basic consent.

The challenge here is not about being prepared with the proper infrastructure to host these events, it is rather about being seen as a country with dubious democratic practices, that treats its citizens differently according to their economic status and that does not guarantee the essential right of property to those most in need of being protected.

Also Global Voices past FIFA-related eviction coverage:

28 May: Interview: Cartoonist Slams Forced Evictions in Brazil for World Cup
24 May: Brazil's Indigenous Fight Back Against State Development
2 April: Century-Old Trees Face the Axe in Brazil
25 March: Brazil Violently Ousts Indigenous Village Ahead of World Cup
10 March: FIFA Beware! Journalist Teams Up with Brazil's World Cup Victims
5 March: Carnival Samba Takes Aim at World Cup in Brazil
4 March: VIDEO: Brazil Bulldozes Neighborhood Without Warning for World Cup
1 March: Brazilian Family Loses Home to the World Cup

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