By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), part of the Organization of American States (OAS), described the situation of human rights violations in Rio de Janeiro’s favela communities as ‘disturbing’, criticizing the State for not doing more to protect those who live in those communities.
“It is clear that people are suffering because they are poor. I have been hearing about favelas for a long time, but what are the measures the state has been taking to deal with poverty?” asked Margaret May Macaulay, acting IACHR director during a hearing on human rights in Montevideo, Uruguay on Monday.
The hearing addressed police lethality in Rio’s favelas as well as the performance of the Armed Forces in public security and operations in favelas and the use of collective search warrants and the home of residents as military bases in the communities.
“How many police officers were convicted of the murders of civilians and the wounded? What does the government do when children die playing on the doorstep and inside the school?” questioned Macaulay. According to data police lethality increased by forty-five percent from June 2016 to June of this year.
In addition to OAS representatives, members of human rights working in Rio, such as Redes da Mare, Global Justice and Criola also attended the hearing. According to these entities the Brazilian State will have to respond to the escalation of militarization and institutional violence in Rio de Janeiro.
“What we see in Brazil is an increase in setbacks which are unacceptable,” says Isabel Lima, coordinator of Institutional Violence and Public Security at Global Justice and also present at the hearing.
“Measures such as the law to place the Army in action in the favelas, and now the determination that the intentional killings committed by the military against civilians should be tried by military courts (instead of civilian courts) gives the dimension of the problem that the country faces,” adds Lima.
In addition to the killings and unlawful entries by police into peoples’ homes, schools in these communities were forced to suspend their classes because of the risk of death. The twelve-day operation in Jacarezinho in August, for example, left thousands without basic services.
“During the period, more than 26,000 students were left without classes, sixty schools were closed and services of garbage collection, transportation and even electricity supply were interrupted,” said Eliana Souza, member of the NGO Redes da Mare, based in the Complexo da Mare, a conglomerate of sixteen favela communities in the Northern part of Rio.
“The government is taking the little we (Rocinha) have away,” Italian expatriate Barbara Olivi, who lives in the community and operates several social projects within Rocinha, including a daycare and two pre-schools, tells The Rio Times.
According to the expatriate ‘the traffickers have more respect for the community than the State does’. “The government has no interest in dealing with the poor,” says Olivi.
“Drug traffickers never entered our schools or invaded our houses. The first ‘visit’ we received was in 2012 from the Bope (Special Operations Batallion) when they set up the UPP (Police Pacifying Unit) in Rocinha,” concludes Olivi.