Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Squatter War a comin' in Metro Manila?

The Metro Manila Development Authority has vowed to rid the city of squatters in three years. The agency plans to push out 17,000 families every year, according to this article from the Manila Standard Today. And talk about humane treatment: the settlers are told to leave voluntarily or "we tear down their structures," MMDA general manager Robert Nacianceno told the paper. The agency is asking the government to slash the budgets of the National Police, National Housing Authority and Department of Social Welfare and Development and to apply the money to creation of resettlement sites.

Plotting for land

Squatters settle down in Barbados. "While there is no uniformity as to where the houses are built, some residents have put in their own road network," The Nation Newspaper reports in an inside view.

Rhino's a dinosaur now

Tragic news: Geneva's historic Rhino squat has been evicted after 20 years of open and notorious occupation. Geneva chief prosecutor Daniel Zappelli ordered the police to evict the squatters despite the fact that the landlord and the occupants were still in court. "There comes a time when state authority should be affirmed and restored," Zappelli said. The prosecutor's office is currently dealing with at least 27 criminal procedures concerning squatting in Geneva. swissinfo has the sad details.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Beat Diaspora

Beat Diaspora is the blog of 'Gregzinho,' an American living in Rocinha and working for the Two Brothers Foundation, a great educational NGO. Lots of info on bailes funk (favela all-night dance parties), the cops, the drug gangs, and, simply, real life.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Squatters Rights, Post-Soviet-style

Transdniestria, an area in Moldova that has declared independence and calls itself the Pridnestróvskaia Moldávskaia Respública, or PMR, has passed a law to allow rural land occupants to gain legal title to their holdings, as advocated by Hernando de Soto. See The Tiraspol Times, 16 July and Tiraspol Times, 10 July.

Now: what about urban land?


Sixteen squatter communities in Fiji have come together to create a community organization. It's called the People's Community Network the Fiji Times reports.

And consider this, from Sekove Ratu, one of the leaders of the squatter community called Muslim League Settlement: "Every time when squatters are mentioned, people get the thought of poor people who scarcely make a living. This is the wrong perception."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

sacred cash cow

A story I missed back on July 4: the Economic Times reported that without a single drop of concrete hitting the ground, the government of Maharastra state in India has already earned more than 10 million rupees (appxoximately $250,000) simply by selling the forms that developers must use to express interest in getting one of the bids to redevelop Dharavi, Mumbai's largest squatter community.

Boxer Shorts and Books

Sergio Fajardo, the Mayor of Medellín, in Colombia, is democratizing the space for development in the city. He is deliberately pursuing a strategy of erecting important public buildings in squatter areas and shantytowns, though apparently without major evictions. The result is turning many neighborhoods into vast construction sites. The New York Times has the details.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Three views from inside the favelas

The BBC offers the words of three favela dwellers in Rio about life in Complexo do Alemao in Zona Norte and Rocinha in Zona Sul.

I'm glad that reporters are offering verbatim opinions of residents. Still, it's sad that the Beeb frames the story as one of violence. Journalists, as the first person interviewed says, "sell violence to sell newspapers."

Think about it: this compendium of interviews is titled "Inside Rio's violent favelas" and notes that "Brazil's government has pledged $1.7bn (£850m) to improve conditions in Rio de Janeiro's huge shantytowns, or favelas, in an effort to beat organised crime."

And what about normal life in the favelas? Will any news service ever simply walk in and cover that?

[thanks to Washington for the tip about the clip!]

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Could be good news for the favelas

On the surface, this seems like great news: $1.7 billion in real infrastructure for the very real residents of Rio de Janeiro's favelas. Finally, these communities will have government-sponsored water systems and other basic services. Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, sounds a strong note of solidarity, refusing to blame the residents for the opportunistic drug gangs that occupy many of the favelas. "If the state doesn't fulfil its role and does not provide (adequate) services for the people, drug traffickers and organised crime will," President Lula said. "We want people to have road access, street lighting, hospitals and schools." BBC NEWS has details.

The devil, of course, is in the details, and it remains to be seen how this infrastructure program will be carried out and who will truly benefit. Let's hope it's more than hot air.

I hope any readers from Rio will keep us posted on whether this is one promise Lula will keep.

[thanks to Bryan for the link]