Tuesday, April 26, 2005

more on the rio police

Reuters reports that the massacre was in the Baixada Fluminense, which is largely poor and working class and certainly tough turf but not necessarily technically favela. That is, the residents may be legal owners, not squatters. It's interesting that all poor zones of Rio are sort of lumped together, which is part of what gives the favelas their bad reputation.

The victims were from all walks of life, including "a civil servant drinking in a bar, a young boy playing pinball, a cook on his way home from work and a transvestite prostitute."

As the article reports: "International human rights often criticize Rio police and say they have a history of summary executions. Security officials said police killed 983 “suspects” last year and 1,195 in 2003."

Makes you wonder who's more dangerous: the criminals or the cops.

police vs. the masses

A recent dispatch from Knight-Ridder discusses the aftermath of a police massacre in the favelas in which 30 bystanders were killed. Earlier, eight officers were caught on video dumping the decapitated bodies of two suspects outside a police station. Yet the favelas have the worse reputation than the police. My experience: favelas can be dangerous, but so can the cops. Yet the ordinary folk--which means perhaps 99 percent of the squatters--are simply hardworking people priced out of the housing market. It's time for the mass of Rio's squatters to demand better conduct from the politicians and the police. I'll post more on this as I find more in the Brazilian press.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Reuters: Slum dwellers seen tripling

By 2050, the number of squatters in the world will triple, to 3 billion, the United Nations estimates. Sort of makes the UN's goal of intervening on behalf of 100 million squatters by 2020 a bit laughable, doesn't it.

Today, one in six people on the planet are squatters. They have the numbers and the power to improve their communities. But no one gives up power willingly. The squatters will have to seize power and demand the world pay attention. Charity alone, which is what the UN proposes, will not suffice.

Fernand Braudel, author of Civilization and Capitalism, the great history of the foundations of our economic age, put it this way:
"If people set about looking for them, seriously and honestly, economic solutions could be found which would extend the area of the market and would put at its disposal the economic advantages so far kept to itself by one deminant group in society. But the problem does not essentially lie there; it is social in nature. Just as a country at the center of a world-economy can hardly be expected to give up privileges at the internation level, how can one hope that the dominant groups who combine capital and state power, and who are assured of international support, will agree to play the game and hand over to someone else?"
By 2050, according to the UN's stats, about 40 percent of the people on the globe will be squatters. Will it take a revolution for true squatter empowerment? Politics, anyone?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Brutal police action against Mumbai squatters

Last week, Mumbai police attacked a peaceful demonstration by squatters who had been evicted from their homes. The Times of India offers a short report.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Squatters penetrate the clutter

I'm excited that Shadow Cities is helping bring attention to squatters and their vital communities. I just took a quick look around the web and found some notable recent items:

Forum: Qualitatative Social Research offers a review by Brian Christens.

The Epoch Times has a review by Molly A. Daniels-Ramanujan

Boing Boing provides a thoughful commentary; see also the reaction posted at Radical Congruency

Finally, Stewart Brand mentions squatters in his interesting article on Environmental Heresies in the May 2005 issue of Technology Review

Keep those cards and letters coming!

Monday, April 11, 2005

From scrap steel shanties to steel-framed skyscrapers

Architectural writer Nancy Levinson navigates what all too often seems like a great distance in her review of my Shadow Cities and Daniel Okrent's Great Fortune, about the rise of Rockefeller Center.