By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Tension remained high this past weekend in the favela community of Vila Kennedy, where on Friday city bulldozers demolished 52 stalls operated by local residents.
The community, located in the Zona Oeste (West Zone) of the city of Rio de Janeiro, is one of the first to see action from the country’s armed forces, after President Temer declared military intervention in the state’s security operations.
Videos of the bulldozers destroying the stalls in a square in the favela went viral on the Internet during the weekend. In one, Leonardo and Luciana Damasceno, kneel and pray in front of a kiosk, hoping to change city workers’ minds.
“I’ve been working in the kiosk for fifteen years. What am I going to do now?” said Leonardo Damasceno, 33 years old. “I have a four-year-old son and my wife is three months pregnant. The kiosk is our only source of income,” he said in the video.
According to local media, the measures were implemented by city officials who took advantage of the presence of soldiers in Vila Kennedy to take down the stalls, which sold everything from food to electronics.
“They took advantage of the stability of the area, provided by the presence of the troops, for actions to organize the urban areas,” said a statement released by the military command in charge of the intervention.
After widespread criticism from both local media and non-governmental groups, Rio’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella, admitted that the operation showed ‘a disproportionate use of force’.
“The mayor repudiates this type of behavior. He determined the immediate removal of the officials involved and the registration of the merchants for immediate reallocation,” said the note released on Saturday night.
According to city officials the owners of the destroyed stalls will be given new stalls near the square where they were once located.