RIO DE JANEIRO – This town is getting cleaned up, and not everyone is happy about it. As a (relatively) long-time New Yorker, I’ve seen how over-policing and gentrification can wear the charm off a place. Of course, comparing the two cities is a stretch, and Rio has such a big gap in social conditions, it’s not fair to complain.
My history with Rio only goes back to 2004, but with the oil discovery and the World Cup and Olympics on the way, it feels like things are changing quickly, real estate is spiking and tourism is booming.
Since we started publishing in March of 2009, we’ve seen a progression of civil laws enforced for what sometimes appears to be a superficial solution to the sever problems of poverty and crime that burden the Marvelous City.
It’s hard to connect the extremes, although it seems a deliberate emulation of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s “no broken windows” approach to cleaning up New York City. To the point that Rio almost hired Giuliani to consult for the city, but apparently the price tag was too high, and again, Rio is not New York.
Here are some of the articles that tell the story over the last year or so:
– Shock and Order Prefeitura Cracks Down
– Removing Illegal Street Vendors
– Prefeitura Closes Copacabana Clubs
– Building Walls Around Favelas
– Operation Dry Law on Rio’s Roads
– Smoke-Free Law Takes Effect
– Help Closed, and Rio Moves On
– Health Fears Close Rio Bars and Shops
Now I’m all for progress, and the fact that I’ve never seen a vehicle even slow down for the stop sign where Avenida Rainha Elizabeth da Bélgica runs into Ipanema’s beach-side Avenue Vieira Souto, indicates we’re a ways from all out fascism.
But I’ve also seen the down-side to cleaning up too much – like what’s happened in New York. You can barely go two blocks without seeing a national chain store selling conformity, and too many closet-sex-in-the-city, trust-fund-hipsters parroting a spirit of adventure.
And at the end of the day, who doesn’t like being able to buy a beer at the bar, and walk out onto the street drinking it? … If you wanted to… I’m just saying.
The serious question is who do these frivolous laws help, and where does it fit in the policies of more important social challenges? The fact that over 15 percent of the Rio’s population live in favelas, a number which has grown almost four times as fast as the total population, gives a stark contrast to the increase in cost of living.