Friday, January 19, 2007

Gringos to the rescue

After Rio Governor Sergio Cabral promised a crack down on drug gangs, the drug gangs responded with violent incidents around the city. Now Brazil's President has weighed in with a new plan: bring in the gringos! That's right: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced that the government would bring tourist hotels and inns to the Rocinha neighborhood of Laboriaux, which hangs over the top of Gavea, one of Rio's wealthiest communities. Lula's plan also includes "construction of roads, creches, hospitals and a convention centre in Rocinha," The Guardian reports.

There are, of course, lots of items that seem not to have been addressed in this plan. Among them:

1. The neighborhood already has roads and creches.
2. What will happen to the people evicted for these developments?
3. Will there be rules to restrict rent increases in the newly formalized favela?
4. Who will develop all these things? Will the longstanding residents truly benefit?
5. Why only Rocinha? Rio has 700 other favelas. Rocinha is actually the most urbanized and knitted into the city's fabric. A cynic might say it's because Rocinha is closest to some of the city's ritziest neighborhoods.

Rocinha residents (or Rio residents) who read this: please tell us what you think.


scruggs said...

it reminds me of the altere-rio plans that I blogged about:

only that's on the leblon end. maybe they're trying to box rocinha in? have you asked William . . . forget his last name, the presidente of the associção de moradores, what he thinks?


FaveladodaRocinha said...

This is not good if price of rent go up. the goverment need to get education, water system, electric power for all house and resident in Rocinha. Hotels is not important now.

Colin said...

Thank you for pointing to that, I will follow up.

The coverage I read in the local papers here (I'm in São Paulo) say that the plan involves moving displaced residents into apartments "on the asphalt," as they say.

The Guardian seems to be channeling the coverage by the O Globo newspaper, which as a news junky with an interest in Brazilian press I tend to not think so highly of.

And more. Note, however, that it is not quite correct to depict the situation purely as a conflict between law and order and "drug traffickers."

IstoÉ magazine recently reported that 100 favelas in Rio are now controlled by militias, each made up of 30 off-duty military policemen, with tacit support from the PM. They are funded by other vice rackets (jogo de bicho, bingos, one-armed bandits) and local politicians, and reportedly kill and expel residents with impunity.

They are reportedly now charging "surtaxes" on local businesses, both legal and "informal." Real estate values and rents are reportedly soaring in those communities.

A USB pen drive seized in the arrest of a local gambling racketeer, meanwhile, contained the names and salaries of 170 police officers who were protecting and operating the man's business. Those officers were arrested.

Another, possibly related and certainly disturbing recent development was an incursion last week by the infamous BOPE, and other highly militarized PM units, in the Complex Alemão, for example.

Three armored vehicles and a helicopter were used to effect the arrest of suspects of some kind, but different press accounts cite different reasons. Five people were killed. The entire area was turned into a free-fire zone for nearly 12 hours. Grenade explosions were reported.

And one reported death that I read about fits a classic pattern of PM operations: A corpse with multiple gunshot wounds is delivered to a local emergency room. As Caco Barcellos describes in Rota 66, the PMs will use the pretext of "rendering aid" to corpses with multiple bullet wounds to the head to prevent forensic investigations of fatal shooting incidents, whether accidental or, ahem, otherwise.

Mr. Cabral officially praised the action in ths state's official bulletin. Cabral had pledged during his campaign to end the use of the caveirão -- the Ford-built military-grade APC -- for community policing and otherwise try to rein in disproportionate use of force. So I was surprised.

Just because someone wears a uniform does not mean that they are on the side of law and order. This is a sad but generally acknowledged situation.

On the other hand, the new civilian-controlled National Public Security Force -- the PM is run by egional military commanders and subject to mulitary jurisdiction -- is operating in the Rio-São Paulo corridor at the moment, while the Federal Police are making more and more police corruption cases.

My general point being that the situation in Rio is rather fluid, the conflict is multilateral, and federal strategic planning runs pretty deep.

And something we note in São Paulo as well: the PMs resent the loss of autonomy represented by the federal assistance (and implicitly, oversight) that the National Force represents. We sense that some of the "ostensive policing" we have been seeing here in Sampa is more "ostentation" than anything else.

At any rate, please be careful of repeating simplified versions of events from unreliable sources. You are right to go straight to the source, but remember that residents are not always able to speak freely.

rn said...

Thanks to all three of you for the fantastic reactions.

And Colin, if you're interested, please keep the blog posted of any additional items you find.

FaveladodaRocinha said...

Tenho medo d mais da caveirão e a policia..cai fora fdp's.o governo precisa d ajudar as favelas d outra lugares..complexo do Alemão, Mare, Turano, Borel, Morro dos mais

Scruggs o nome do presidente e Willian d Oliveira..