By Andrew Willis, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A further indication of the security improvements in the city of Rio this year is that many residents and tourists opted to celebrate the New Year festivities in the city’s ‘pacified’ favela communities instead of Copacabana Beach. Four years after the Police Pacification Unit (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, or UPP) program started, many hillside favelas are safe enough to enjoy amazing views of the fireworks show.
For big spenders, resident Azelina Viana dos Santos offered a R$1,000-a-head reception at the top of the Pavão-Pavãozinho favela community, with champagne, whiskey, paella carioca and oxtail rigatoni among the fare on offer.
Located behind Copacabana, with excellent views over the beach, Pavão-Pavãozinho was pacified in December 2009 and is one of several communities to see an uptick in business since then, according to a recent report.
In next favela over, which sits behind Ipanema, Cantegalo was also pacified in December 2009, and offered a similar option including a menu of churrasco and caipirinhas was available for R$250. The organizer of the two events, Daniel Plá, says all the profits will be put towards further improvements inside the communities.
“The proceeds of the festival go to the residents of Cantagalo and Pavao-Pavãozinho. The party begins with a tour of the favela. For the first time in four years, we will have more Brazilians than gringos,” Plá told the O Globo newspaper.
Behind the beach in Leme, the Favela Inn offered an evening atop the Chapéu Mangueira hillside favela. Guests were offered a traditional dinner menu, plus breakfast the following morning for R$200.
Chapéu Mangueira and the neighboring favela of Babilonia were pacified in June 2009, and like others of communities with resident police units, have experienced an influx of new residents and a corresponding rise in property prices since then.
In the Complexo do Alemao in the Zona Norte (North Zone), many residents opted to watch the fireworks from the cable car stations that sit atop several hills in the complex, including the Morro do Adeus.
Despite being pacified in late 2010, the area has continued to witness outbreaks of violence, including a recent shootout between police and drug traffickers in the Nova Brasília favela. Two suspects were killed during the exchange of fire in December and later one police officer from a Police Pacifying Unit (UPP).
Yet residents are optimistic, “Christmas was relaxed, several parties took place without any conflict. It’s the first year with the UPP. Expectations are high,” said Rene, creator of the web portal Voz das Comunidades (Voice of Communities), a site with news on favelas.
“Before the works under the Accelerated Growth Program (PAC) took place, it was difficult to climb up the Morro do Adeus. There wasn’t any access. Now there is a road which leads to an area with a great view.”
December marked the fourth anniversary of Rio de Janeiro’s inaugural UPP in the Santa Marta favela, with police units being a key part of the state government’s pacification program, followed with much anticipation by the UPP Social.