Do Us a Favela: Aesthetic Cleansing in Run-Up to Brazil's Olympics
DO US A FAVELA
AESTHETIC CLEANSING IN THE RUN-UP TO BRAZIL'S OLYMPICS
SchNEWS Issue 816 - 25th May 2012
Before the whole corporate sponsored running and jumping over things fandango known as The Olympics has even started here the next one is already causing problems. Last month U.N Representative Raquel Roinik accused the Brazilian government of outright human rights violations – adding her voice to organizations such as International Amnesty and Action Aid. Their accusations focus on the unlawful and inhuman treatment of Brazil’s poor for the sake of the 2016 Olympics and the World Cup 2014.
What was supposed to be two mega-events uniting people of all nations is being stained by relentless corporate control and oppression. Naturally, events this big require intensive infrastructure projects. Construction started in 2011 in twelve Brazilian cities – Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Fortaleza, Recife, Natal, Salvador, Manaus, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Brasília & Porto Alegre, aiming at the expansion and modernization of the public transport network, road building and the renovation or construction of new stadiums.
It has been estimated that this construction boom will displace 170,000 people, mostly from poor favelas, often through illegitimate and even criminal means. The government is forcing families to leave without adequate notice and previous consultation. Their options are to move to the outskirts of the city, which in Rio de Janeiro means 60km away from their original home, or to accept a tiny amount of compensation that is worth nothing compared to the market value of their homes, and risk even deeper poverty.
Some of the evictions look like Israeli operations in the West Bank. On 22nd October 2010, Edilson, a Restinga community resident, described the operation: “At 10am there were machines, police officers, riot forces with large weapons and they started emptying out the houses. If someone refused to leave they would take the bulldozer and start breaking down the door. The officers would come into your house, take you out by force and then demolish it.” One favela ‘da Mare’ has been literally isolated through the construction of a surrounding ‘acoustic’ wall in 2010.
The wall and the evictions are part of a long process to give the favelas sites a major make-over to attract tourism and foreign investment: effectively a form of aesthetic cleansing. This suspicion was confirmed when the Brazilian government spent R$ 377 million (£117 million) to change a major infrastructure project in order for residents of a wealthy area in Ipanema (Rio de Janeiro) to stay where they were.
However, the Brazilian government might not be the ultimate baddy, according to Brian Mier from Action Aid: “The government suffers true blackmail from FIFA. Any proposal that is not in line with FIFA’s interests leads them to threaten cancellation of the World Cup. Therefore, to confront the government is to confront FIFA and the media.”
Just as with the London games – it’s corporate interests that come first. FIFA has managed last month to get the Brazilian authorities to pass the World Cup Law completely dedicated to ensuring the exclusivity of corporate profit. This law will allow the selling of alcohol in the matches despite a 2003 drinks ban introduced to stop violence; of course the fact that the World Cup’s main sponsor is Budweiser therefore comes as no great surprise. The law also stingily bans cut-price tickets for welfare recipients, students and pensioners. In a country full of poverty stricken soccer fans they want to enforce copyright laws on bars that intend to transmit the games live. As a final touch the law also guarantees corporate exclusivity on the selling of food and drinks in the areas surrounding the stadiums.
So next time we are being internationally entertained it’s wise to remember that there is only one winner.
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