By Cecilie Hestbæk, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In somewhat of an unpublicized process, the Prefeitura (local government) is currently constructing an exclusive ecological park area at the top of Rocinha. To add to the mystery, the road to the park is apparently going to be shielded from the favela by a wall.

New park in Rocinha, photo by Janice Guziak.

When thinking of Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio, most people probably do not get mental image of romantic picnic settings with modern playgrounds and astonishing views. This however, might change in a short period of time.

During the last two years a government construction project on the very top of Rocinha has been reshaping the vast rocks and wild bush areas into a brand new park area resembling that of a wealthy American suburb.

Spotlight-lit trees set the scene in the beautifully constructed plateaus of barbecue-spaces and viewpoints at the mountainside, and only the newly planted, pink flowers stand out from the stylish white and beige colors connecting the terraces to the luxurious bathroom facilities and creatively designed playground.

Amaury Julio Jr. is the manager of Cantero Social de Rocinha. He explains that the Ecological Park is part of a large renovation of the area, and that the government is very eager to get the park ready for inauguration. He explains that the park is going to be open to everyone, but is very thrilled by the significance it will have especially for the Rocinha community.

“We will be able to use the Park as an outdoor classroom for the children. Here they will be able to have Biology and Science classes, and learn about Nature and the environment while they are actually in it” he offers.

Park amenities waiting to be opened, photo by Janice Guziak.

Alex Barwinski lives in Rocinha right next to the construction site, and he is sure the Ecological Park is going to be very important to the 300,000 inhabitants of the morro.

“Rocinha doesn’t have any public spaces, so getting a common playground and recreation area is going to meet significant community needs”.

However, just how public the area is going to be, Alex Barwinski has his doubts about. Access to the park, he has learned, will be restricted to “some sort of membership,” perhaps even based on an annual payment.

Also, Alex Barwinski explains, the government is not making it completely clear how the managing of the area is going to function. Obvious to the inhabitants though, a facelift of the whole area around the park has begun, a facelift it seems the government is going to try to protect by building a wall alongside the road that leads to the park and prohibiting any more expansion of the favela in that area.

When the park will be inaugurated remains unclear. According to Amaury Julio Jr. it is going to be very soon. From what Alex Barwinski has been told, the park will not open until within a year from now.

Meanwhile, on top of the ever-pulsating Rocinha, the building of a grandiose amphitheater in one end of the park is almost complete, and a sign informs that the empty building ground across the road is some day soon going to be transformed into a sports arena.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Fascinating article, there can’t be many people who know about this project. The reason for the uncertainty of the opening date, of course, is the uncertainty about when the police pacification program (UPP) will come to Rocinha. When that happens, the park will be opened.

  2. Yeah, i was going to say the same thing… it’s all part of the UPP plan – along with the colorfully painted houses at the front of Rocinha. Whether a UPP is actually possible in Rocinha, is another story…

  3. I hope the rich minority of Brazil will one day organise themselves to rid there country of Flavelas. To give all of there inhabitants a chance in life.
    In the highly praised history of the Americanization of Brazil that Gerald Haines writes that from 1945 the United States used Brazil as a “testing area for modern scientific methods of industrial development based solidly on capitalism.” The experiment was carried out with “the best of intentions.”

    Foreign investors benefited, but planners “sincerely believed” that the people of Brazil would benefit as well. I need not describe how they benefited as Brazil became “the Latin American darling of the international business community” under military rule, in the words of the business press, while the World Bank reported that two-thirds of the population did not have enough food for normal physical activity.

    Writing in 1989, Haines describes “America’s Brazilian policies” as “enormously successful,” “a real American success story.” 1989 was the “golden year” in the eyes of the business world, with profits tripling over 1988, while industrial wages, already among the lowest in the world, declined another 20 percent; the UN Report on Human Development ranked Brazil next to Albania. When the disaster began to hit the wealthy as well, the “modern scientific methods of development based solidly on capitalism” (Haines) suddenly became proofs of the evils of statism and socialism-another quick transition that takes place when needed.

    To appreciate the achievement, one must remember that Brazil has long been recognized to be one of the richest countries of the world, with enormous advantages, including half a century of dominance and tutelage by the United States with benign intent, which once again just happens to serve the profit of the few while leaving the majority of people in misery.

    The most recent example is Mexico. It was highly praised as a prize student of the rules of the Washington consensus and offered as a model for others-as wages collapsed, poverty increased almost as fast as the number of billionaires, foreign capital flowed in (mostly speculative, or for exploitation of cheap labor kept under control by the brutal “democracy”). Also familiar is the collapse of the house of cards in December 1994. Today half the population cannot obtain minimum food requirements, while the man who controls the corn market remains on the list of Mexico’s billionaires, one category in which the country ranks high.

    How Countries Develop
    … In the eighteenth century, the differences between the first and third worlds were far less sharp than they are today. Two obvious questions arise
    1. Which countries developed, and which not?
    2. Can we identify some operative factors?
    The answer to the first question is fairly clear. Outside of Western Europe, two major regions developed the United States and Japan-that is, the two regions that escaped European colonization. Japan’s colonies are another case; though Japan was a brutal colonial power, it did not rob its colonies but developed them, at about the same rate as Japan itself.

    What about Eastern Europe? In the fifteenth century, Europe began to divide, the west developing and the east becoming its service area, the original third world. The divisions deepened into early in this century, when Russia extricated itself from the system. Despite Stalin’s awesome atrocities and the terrible destruction of the wars, the Soviet system did undergo significant industrialization. It is the “second world,” not part of the third world-or was, until 1989.
    We know from the internal record that into the 1960s, Western leaders feared that Russia’s economic growth would inspire “radical nationalism” elsewhere, and that others too might be stricken by the disease that infected Russia in 1917, when it became unwilling “to complement the industrial economies of the West,” as a prestigious study group described the problem of Communism in 1955. The Western invasion of 1918 was therefore a defensive action to protect “the welfare of the world capitalist system,” threatened by social changes within the service areas. And so it is described in respected scholarship.

    The cold war logic recalls the case of Grenada or Guatemala, though the scale was so different that the conflict took on a life of its own. It is not surprising that with the victory of the more powerful antagonist, traditional patterns are being restored. It should also come as no surprise that the Pentagon budget remains at cold war levels and is now increasing, while Washington’s international policies have barely changed, more facts that help us gain some insight into the realities of global order.
    … the question of which countries developed, at least one conclusion seems reasonably clear development has been contingent on freedom from “experiments” based on the “bad ideas” that were very good ideas for the designers and their collaborators. That is no guarantee of success, but it does seem to have been a prerequisite for it.

    Let’s turn to the second question How did Europe and those who escaped its control succeed in developing? Part of the answer again seems clear by radically violating approved free market doctrine. That conclusion holds from England to the East Asian growth area today, surely including the United States, the leader in protectionism from its origins.

    Standard economic history recognizes that state intervention has played a central role in economic growth. But its impact is underestimated because of too narrow a focus. To mention one major omission, the industrial revolution relied on cheap cotton, mainly from the United States. It was kept cheap and available not by market forces, but by elimination of the indigenous population and slavery. There were of course other cotton producers. Prominent among them was India. Its resources flowed to England, while its own advanced textile industry was destroyed by British protectionism and force. Another case is Egypt, which took steps toward development at the same time as the United States but was blocked by British force, on the quite explicit grounds that Britain would not tolerate independent development in that region. New England, in contrast, was able to follow the path of the mother country, barring cheaper British textiles by very high tariffs as Britain had done to India. Without such measures, half of the emerging textile industry of New England would have been destroyed, economic historians estimate, with large-scale effects on industrial growth generally.

    A contemporary analog is the energy on which advanced industrial economies rely. The “golden age” of postwar development relied on cheap and abundant oil, kept that way largely by threat or use of force. So matters continue. A large part of the Pentagon budget is devoted to keeping Middle East oil prices within a range that the United States and its energy companies consider appropriate. … one technical study of the topic … concludes that Pentagon expenditures amount to a subsidy of 30 percent of the market price of oil, demonstrating that “the current view that fossil fuels are inexpensive is a complete fiction,” the author concludes. Estimates of alleged efficiencies of trade, and conclusions about economic health and growth, are of limited validity if we ignore many such hidden costs…

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