In the wake of mudslides that claimed more than 200 lives in the region, Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes has signed a decree permitting the forced removal of residents in 158 "high-risk" areas, The Guardian reports. The newspaper notes that Paes also signaled that two favelas – Morro dos Prazeres, where 25 people died, and the Laboriaux neighborhood of Rocinha, where two were killed – would be permanently removed.
"We are not animals. We are human beings and we need the support of the town hall," Elisa Rosa Brandão, president of the Morro dos Prazeres residents association, told the news website G1. "This community has history and the families do not just want to leave."
Across the harbor in Niteroi, one resident of favela Morro da Bumba, which had been built on a former trash heap and was a scene of great tragedy after the rains, pointed out that forced evictions are no answer if replacement homes are not available. "I'm against violence but if the government doesn't help, what I am supposed to do? Go and sleep outside the town hall with my kids?"
While mudslides on the many hills in Brazil's former capital are normal occurrences, the threat of forced evictions is a putsch against these communities that house one in five city residents. The government needs, instead, to work with these neighborhoods to create solutions -- both short term, to house those who have lost their homes, and long term, to create proper drainage and sewers and construction standards so the communities are not at risk ever again. Otherwise, these kinds of tragedies will simply continue.