Tuesday, April 03, 2012

participation, not pacification

Theresa Williamson runs the Rio de Janeiro NGO Catalytic Communities, which has been bravely chronicling the destruction of neighborhoods in the run-up to the World Cup and the Olympics in Brazil. Now, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, she points out the country's missed opportunity. Instead of using the events as cover for demolishing favelas, pushing out 170,000 people to make way for highways and stadiums, and invading communities with well-armed police commandos in a program ominously called pacification, the country should be creating partnerships that bring favela dwellers in to join in improving their neighborhoods and their cities.

Money quote:

Rio will apparently be “made safe for the Olympics” by pushing its lowest-income residents to peripheral areas, where crime is also heading. Here in Brazil, and especially in Rio, we have a tradition of inequality — and its natural consequence, crime — and it appears the upcoming mega-events will only exacerbate it. It would be much more creative, cost-effective and empowering if resources were targeted to participatory integration. That would be an Olympic legacy to be proud of.
Easy words but radical stuff. The power structure giving the keys to the city to the squatters. That would be a real velvet revolution.