Editorial

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Five, or even three years ago, the favelas of Rio were seen as independent from Brazil in terms of social inclusion, services, and certainly security. Slowly, in front of our eyes, we see it changing, the ‘pacification’, the UPPs, the urban planning and investment – it is happening – and it is called progress.

Stone Korshak, Editor and Publisher of The Rio Times.

Just two years ago I personally walked past at least thirty kids in Rocinha with assault riffles smoking and chatting nervously under a cover from the rain watching the main roadway into the favela. It was my third time there, and my last.

I’ve ventured into other favelas and always saw lots of guns, big guns, shiny guns, but there was never anyone threatening me. All-in-all it was my sense that it was not personally dangerous, just a different policing or security system.

But beyond adventure for a gringo, the fact is the people that live there spent many nights sleeping on the floor for fear of stray bullets. There is no doubt that drug-dealing (and using) machine-gun-touting-teenagers does not make for a stable modern society.

Of course the question is what can replace it that is better? I have also personally seen a police shake-down for R$400 in Rio, and have no doubt the fear and distrust of Rio’s finest is well earned. Not to mention the organized crime wave of militias.

Still, progress is happening, because even a year ago when the first proclamations of Rocinha’s pacification were floated, few could imagine… even last week few could imagine – yet here it is.

As I read all the headlines in the local media yesterday I started to see a new future being sketched out. Massive clean-up, massive investment in infrastructure, and massive development… sounded like gentrification.

The term in the U.S. refers to when wealthier people (“gentry”) acquire or rent property in low income and working class communities… the result is people can’t afford to live in the ‘old neighborhood’ anymore. Still, I suppose it is better then urban decay.

For now, Rocinha and Vidigal – the most famous favelas in Rio (or the world) – have been occupied by military and police forces without a huge fire-fight and civilian death toll. The city will be watching nervously to see how the authorities conduct themselves, and if the UPP Social can deliver on the promise of progress.

The streets of Rocinha
The streets of Rocinha, with the PAC funded paint in the background, and the future playing football (soccer) in the foreground, photo by Marino Azevedo/Imprensa RJ,

2 COMMENTS

  1. your website is a great gift. it helps people who do not live in brazil or do not know the country well learn so much about what is going on. compliments, the website is very well done and it is obvious that professional people are in charge.

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    gn

  2. Gentrification is exactly what will happen. This is why the gringos are moving in. They are not brave. They are greedy and see dollars on the horizon. They will buy now when it is cheap and sell later when developers start offenring big bucks to favela residents so that they cabtear the current poorly built homes down and build shiny new highrises to sell for a million dollars. The favelas are sitting on prime real estate.

    My concern is where will the people of the favelas go? There is obviously no affordable housing in Rio which is why the favelas exist in the first place. The majority of these people would be homeless in Rio without their illegal homes with illegal utility and water hookups. These people have been very resourceful and have made the best out of a very bad situation. Neglected and ignored by their own govenrnment until The World Cup and The Olympics provides a lucrative opportunity for the city and thrusts them into the world spotlight.

    The proper thing for the city and country government to do is to resist gentrification and legalize the property in the favelas or control the property and make the housing affordable, inhabitable, safe, and sanitary for the working poor who live in the favelas now. If property is rented or sold to new people, they should have to meet certain low income guidelines and be Brazilian citizens. It is time for Rio to show these people the care and concern they have denied them for so long.

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