By Benjamin Parkin, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Former residents of the recently occupied area known as Favela da Telerj, or Oi Favela, continued protesting their eviction from the site last Friday. Around three hundred people have been camped outside Rio de Janeiro City Hall in Cidade Nova, Zona Norte (North Zone), demanding a solution to their housing situation.
On Monday morning, hundreds of protesters marched along the Avenida Presidente Vargas while a group of representatives remained in negotiations with the municipality. Protesters had met with the Secretary of Social Assistance, Adilson Pires, and the Secretary of Housing, Pierre Batista, on Sunday.
They rejected an offer to move to the barracks of the Municipal Guard in São Cristóvão, Zona Norte, as a base from which evicted residents could be registered into social housing programs, such as Minha Casa, Minha Vida.
Nick Pope, a researcher who has been following the situation told The Rio Times, “Hundreds of families set up camp outside the Prefeitura building with next to no supplies or support. They desperately need contributions of food, water, diapers, toiletries, mattresses and tents.”
Especially after the Friday eviction drew international press attention throughout the weekend, “The government’s main aim,” Pope explained, “is to move the camp out of sight, coinciding with an Olympic Committee meeting in which international officials were meeting with Paes in a nearby building today.”
Maria José Silva, one of the organizers of the protest, told R7 news that the protesters did not accept the offer because they are “disillusioned with the registry [for social assistance and housing]. They register and continue to be neglected and forgotten.” Around a third of residents have reportedly been registered for Minha Casa, Minha Vida already, and some had been before the occupation.
People first began to occupy the Telerj site of 50,000 square meters, owned by the telephone company Oi, on March 31st, dividing lots and rapidly building barracos (huts) in which to live. An estimated 5,000 – 6,000 families were living there by the time of the police force came to clear the area eleven days later.
Over 1,500 police and soldiers carried out the eviction on Friday (April 11th), which lasted three hours and was marred by violent scenes, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets. Dozens of people were injured, including three children, several buses and cars were set alight and a supermarket was also looted.
“The people spent two weeks living there, wasting money to buy plywood to build their houses; they lost everything, and now there is not such a simple solution, such as getting registered, that will resolve this,” explained Silva. “People are destabilized by what happened on Friday, there are people sleeping outside, who simply want to enter in order to get their things.”
It was also announced that the Civil Police would be investigating the occupation of the territory, in order to “identify the leaders.” Mayor Eduardo Paes alleged that the invasion was premeditated and that most people didn’t live there, “I don’t know of any Favela da Telerj. I know of an invasion, with all the characteristics of being professional and organized.”