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By Matthew Elliott, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Resident organizations in two of the city’s largest favelas have formulated plans to sue the state government over the failed implementation of the original Program for Accelerated Growth (PAC 1). The perceived failure of the cable car system installed in Complexo do Alemão and growing opposition to construction of a new gondola in Rocinha are at the heart of the proposed move.

Cable Car In Complexo Alemão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
The cable car in operation in the Complexo Alemão favelas, photo by Matthew Elliott.

Launched in July 2011 as a flagship symbol of favela revitalization, the Complexo do Alemão cable car was modeled on a success story in Medellin, Colombia. Linking Bonsuccesso to Palmeira with six stops over the sprawling complex, the project was heralded as a significant transportation revolution for Zona Norte (North Zone) residents.

At an estimated cost of R$210 million, the system received the bulk of the region’s PAC funding and, with 152 cars carrying ten people each, was designed to be the leading form of local transit benefiting 30,000 passengers a day. The current daily demand stands at just 12,000, despite financial incentives for residents, and the venture is now lamented as a diversion from more important projects.

Alan Brum, coordinator of the Moving Roots of Alemão Institute, articulated his concerns, saying; “The cable car is the tourist attraction and pride of [the] state government. To please the eyes of tourists, they built a belt surrounding the complex, a beautiful public college, UPA, childcare and housing. But this is only at the places where the tourists go. If you enter the community, you will find the result of the negligence of the government, the real insecurity we try to fight.”

Working closely with Rocinha Without Borders leader José Martins, Brum has enlisted the assistance of the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly of Rio and the State Court of Auditors to file a claim against the state. They are demanding the completion of unfinished PAC works and accountability to residents of all expenditures related to the project. “Let’s sue the state for failing to implement the project promised,” announced Martins.

Gondola Planned to Span Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
A gondola is planned to link the top of sprawling Rocinha to the bottom, photo by Matthew Elliott.

Davison Coutinho from Rocinha Without Borders stressed the legal focus of the argument; “The structural and social problems in these regions are derived from a larger problem, which is the lack of participation by residents in the decisions of the works of government intervention in Rio, contavening federal law 10.257, which requires the inclusion of the population in these processes,” he stated.

The Construction Company of the State of Rio de Janeiro has defended their work, releasing a statement saying; “Up to now, six meetings were held with a total participation of approximately 1,000 residents. Works will prioritize sanitation, as is the desire of the community, which also approves the construction of the cable car, with some exceptions, of course, as is natural in a community with more than 100,000 inhabitants.”

Speaking to The Rio Times, Rocinha community activist Michele Silva disagreed, instead suggesting that “the vast majority” were in fact against the project. “The cable car actually will destroy local commerce and trade as people stop walking through and local shops are harmed,” she added.

A major infrastructure project of the Lula administration initiated in 2007, PAC 1 was designed to accelerate economic growth in the country but its ineffective realization in Rio’s favelas has been a major issue. Rocinha’s proposed gondola system is scheduled for completion in 2016 as part of a PAC 2 project which saw R$1.6 billion allocated to the community.

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