By Sam Green, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – According to the state Secretary for Sport and Leisure, Márcia Lins, who spoke to The Rio Times recently, Rio will be safe for visitors during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. As concerns grow about the impact of the events on Rio’s poor communities, the biggest challenge and the most important legacy will be to ensure that improvements to the city continue after the sporting events.
Rio’s Secretary of Security, José Beltrame, warned over the weekend that improved security alone would not cure all the problems in the favelas under the control of the Police Pacification Units (UPPs). He called for improvements to power, water, and sewage infrastructure to be implemented urgently.
There has been recent criticism of plans to relocate residents from some favelas and the demolition of existing homes. The UN Human Rights Council and Amnesty International have voiced concerns that evictions are being carried out without full consultation or transparency, while levels of compensation have also been criticized.
UN special adviser Wilfried Lemke will visit Rio in July after being invited by Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman to see social and infrastructure projects.
Secretary Márcia Lins explains: “The first part of the legacy is to change our security situation, and in the last three or four years the state government has worked hard to change our image.” She adds: “For the events, (security will be) no problem. I think the legacy for the people after the events is the big point. We have a new vision.”
“Already we have (pacified) twenty communities, it will be forty for the World Cup (in 2014) and for 2016, fifty communities … The feeling of the people is very good and the number of problems is very low.”
Lins also responded to fears that after the Olympics the state will take less interest in the favelas, allowing the drug trafficking gangs to re-establish control.
“The process is not just for the Olympics, it is for the life of all the people,” Lins said. “It is about people entering formal life, it is about all the communities. The pacifications offer a new vision for the whole of Rio de Janeiro. The idea is to integrate the city.”
Catalytic Communities, a Rio-based watchdog, has been monitoring developments. Executive Director Theresa Williamson agreed there had been “short-term improvements in quality of life” but warned “the long-term impact of these programs are not being considered.”
Williamson explains: “We have heard of residents in newly improving communities receiving a title and selling out quickly. As this happens they will find themselves unable to buy anywhere nearby … The result is gentrification, which is nothing less than expulsion by the market. If the State’s true objective is to benefit the residents of these communities, affordable housing laws will be enacted.”
The government’s efforts in this area are the somewhat controversial but massive Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House My Life) public housing campaign launched in March of 2009. The program now has a federal subsidy of R$72 billion, funded primarily through the PAC 2 program. In Rio de Janeiro the mayor’s office, in collaboration with the federal government, has projected the construction of 100,000 units by 2016.